Belfast Telegraph

Legacy issue and victims' ongoing pain my big regret, says Hamilton

Outgoing PSNI Chief Constable Sir George Hamilton with colleagues Stephen Martin and Barbara Gray at his final meeting of Policing Board
Outgoing PSNI Chief Constable Sir George Hamilton with colleagues Stephen Martin and Barbara Gray at his final meeting of Policing Board
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

Sir George Hamilton has said the failure to properly address legacy issues is a "damning indictment" of the ongoing political vacuum.

On his final day as PSNI Chief Constable he admitted that his biggest personal regret is the unanswered questions around dealing with the past, and he pleaded with politicians to make progress.

Writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, he acknowledged that some families have not had justice or closure.

"I am deeply saddened that in my final week as Chief Constable that I continue to find myself in the unenviable position of balancing my responsibilities to deliver policing in the present day against the need to secure answers and justice for the many families who continue to grieve every day as a result of our past," he said.

"I regret the lack of closure and lack of justice felt by victims' families."

There are 52 legacy inquest cases relating to 93 deaths at various stages of the investigation and inquest process.

A public consultation on the legacy of the Troubles was launched last year.

One of the proposals is for an Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) that would have a case load of about 1,700 Troubles-related deaths, aiming to complete its work in five years.

Sir George added: "I believe that the right place for any legacy investigation is the Historical Investigations Unit. The failure to make progress on the HIU has come at both a financial cost and a cost to confidence in policing. These costs will continue to increase the longer that the ongoing delay continues.

"But these costs pale in comparison to the pain that grieving families continue to suffer.

"It is a damning indictment that in the ongoing political vacuum on dealing with the past, witnesses and members of grieving families are passing away without resolution.

"I am speaking to those who have the responsibility politically to make this happen: please make progress, it is in everybody's interests, not least of all the people who need answers, closure and justice for the loss of their loved one."

Earlier on Radio Ulster's Nolan Show Sir George warned security for the border must be bolstered post-Brexit.

He said: "I've been saying since before the referendum that any difference in tariffs, in customs and regulatory frameworks, creates a stimulus for those who want to be involved in organised crime, and of course if that's the case then police will respond. But there's no desire to move back to a border with the security apparatus and infrastructure of the past."

He also said it will be up to the new Chief Constable to announce the force's response to the court ruling in a dispute over backdated holiday pay.

He warned there would be a massive impact on the PSNI if it has to foot the bill.

"We have already taken £150m out of the baseline police budget in the last five years," he added.

"I can't see where there's another £40m to come out."

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