Belfast Telegraph

Army killings to be re-examined

Killings by British troops in Northern Ireland are to be re-examined after a major report claimed investigators were not rigorous enough in their questioning of members of the security forces.

The national police watchdog review also alleged that the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) was inconsistent, had serious shortcomings and risked losing the confidence of victims' families.

Chief constable Matt Baggott confirmed that deaths caused by military personnel are to be reviewed after admitting a deferential approach was adopted by investigators questioning the soldiers involved.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) were called in by Mr Baggott last year to review the workings of the inquiries team.

Its report said soldiers were treated differently as a matter of policy, apparently based on a misrepresentation of the law. It added: "This is entirely wrong and has led to state involvement cases being reviewed with less rigour in some areas than non-state cases."

Details of who will carry out the reinvestigation have not been announced but police files on the SAS killings of eight IRA men gunned down as they attacked Loughgall Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) station in 1987 are likely to be among those reviewed. The police inquiry will surround some of the 157 cases of Army killings which the HET is investigating.

Nationalists welcomed the report as a moment of truth but unionists claimed some were attempting to paint agents of the state as villains. The HET was set up in September 2005 to investigate more than 3,200 unsolved murders between 1968 when violence first erupted on the streets of Belfast and Londonderry, and 1998, the year of the Good Friday peace agreement which lead to the formation of the powersharing executive at Stormont.

The aim of the unit, which consists mostly of retired police officers from forces across the UK, including the old Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), was to bring closure to many bereaved families who still had unanswered questions about the death or disappearance of their loved ones.

But after the HMIC was called in last year by Mr Baggott to carry out a major review focusing on killings involving troops between 1970 and 1973, it seems the work of the unit fell short of what it was meant to achieve. The way it investigates has been strongly criticised in a report by a senior University of Ulster lecturer. Dr Patricia Lundy said her research indicated that interviews with soldiers were not impartial or effective.

The inspectorate's report concluded the HET's approach to state cases was inconsistent with European human rights legislation. Inspector of Constabulary, Stephen Otter, said he was shocked at the systemic nature of the failures. He added: "It is just not defensible."


From Belfast Telegraph