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Long face of the law as Baggott retires

Joking around for photographer Jonathan Porter in his office at Police Headquarters, outgoing Chief Constable Matt Baggott is asked to straighten his peaked cap and look serious for the camera.

"How am I supposed to stop smiling?" he asks, before pulling a funny face; the stress of five years in the PSNI hot-seat visibly ebbing away.

"Is this grumpy enough?" But he still managed to make a serious point on his final day in office, when he said Northern Ireland had to find a new way to investigate Troubles-era killings.

He said the force should not not investigate murders that happened before the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, saying there was now a pressing need to separate the past from the present.

"I think, however that is done, the PSNI should no longer be accountable for dealing with issues that pre-date the Good Friday Agreement," he said. "We have to create a situation where police resources are focused on the here and now, without taking away from the needs of justice, or victims."

He also urged politicians to step up to the mark and deal with outstanding peace process issues.

He claimed the disputes are a drag anchor holding back progress.

And he vented his frustration that his officers continued to bear the brunt of community fallout caused by the inability to deal with "big ticket" problems.

Mr Baggott had been due to retire at the end of August, but his departure was brought forward.

His successor – Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton – takes over on Monday.

During his time as Chief Constable, Mr Baggott secured a quarter of a billion pounds of additional security funding from the Treasury.

He oversaw a number of huge policing operations for major events, including the G8 summit in Fermanagh, the Giro d'Italia, the World Police and Fire Games and Londonderry's year as UK City of Culture 2013.

While confidence in policing rose during his time in office, Mr Baggott was heavily criticised by unionists and nationalists alike on a wide range of issues.

Mr Hamilton, the province's first home-grown chief constable for 12 years, said he was "honoured and humbled" to have been appointed his successor.

Belfast Telegraph


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