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Cold cases are draining resources: PSNI chief

By Deborah McAleese

Chief Constable Matt Baggott has said that dealing with Northern Ireland’s violent past is dragging PSNI resources away from policing the present and planning for the future.

Mr Baggott said that on top of 30 historical inquests, as well as cases being reviewed by the Historical Enquiries Team, resources will also now be tied up looking into possible charges being brought following the Saville Inquiry.

The PSNI is currently considering the Saville report to determine the nature and extent of any police investigations required to enable the PPS to make a decision on whether or not to prosecute.

Speaking at a North/South Irish criminology conference in the University of Ulster, Mr Baggott said it is right that victims of the Troubles should get answers, but added that the PSNI cannot be the only body dealing with the past.

“Northern Ireland does not have a consensus on dealing with the past so we have opened up 30 inquests and we have the HET. While it is quite right to give victims answers we are also trying to deliver personal policing and protect the public from harm,” Mr Baggott said.

“A significant amount of expertise is going into dealing with the past and now with Saville it will all add up. Quite rightly we have to deal with the past, but police can’t be the only body dealing with it. We are losing 850 people because of the severance agreement and we have to deal with the past with diminishing resources.”

He added that he is delivering a police service at a time of “the most draconian recession in a lifetime” and that politicians need to look at how best to deal with the issue of reconciliation.

Mr Baggott said that he sees the current economic climate as an opportunity to cut bureaucracy and reduce the time officers spend doing paperwork recording issues. Ten years after Patten, Mr Baggott also said it is now time to move on from the Patten route map for policing as it is becoming “counter-productive”.

“We are at the point where we need to look forward rather than back. We have got to give police officers the freedom rather than being constrained,” he said.

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