Belfast Telegraph

Outside probe of Glenanne Gang would cost £60m: PSNI chief

By Brett Campbell

The Chief Constable has warned that outsourcing an investigation into the UVF's Glenanne Gang would cost £60m and called on politicians to do more to help resolve issues of the past.

George Hamilton published an open letter to MLAs in which he expressed his growing frustration over their failure to deliver a series of mechanisms to deal with historical cases as outlined in the Stormont House Agreement three years ago.

And he said that a new "independent" probe into the activities of the notorious loyalist gang would place his budget under even more strain.

"Some may presume the remedy to this dilemma would be to outsource the investigation to an external police service," Mr Hamilton wrote.

But he cautioned that such a move would likely result in around £60m being taken from the policing budget over a five to six-year period - a budget that has already been cut by £180m over the past three years.

Mr Hamilton claimed that even if unresolved cases were to be outsourced, there are "insufficient detective resources" in the UK to carry them out.

Speaking yesterday - within 24 hours of filing an appeal against a High Court ruling last month - he said he regretted the decision but had been left with no choice.

In the ruling, Mr Justice Treacy outlined his intention to compel the Chief Constable to complete a thematic investigation into suspected collusion with loyalist terrorists. The Glenanne Gang, which included RUC and UDR members, was responsible for more than 100 murders between 1972 and 1980.

"We have seen a number of judgments recently from the High Court that make it almost impossible for me," Mr Hamilton claimed.

"From declarations that we are not suitable to do investigations along with orders and directions that we should get on with it - but I can't do both of those things."

He expressed his sympathy for the families bereaved by the notorious UVF gang, who in their own open letter last week pleaded with him not to appeal the High Court decision. "I feel sorry for the families but I believe the best way through this is a clear statement of intent that actually follows through on delivery of the Stormont House Agreement, whether that's from a devolved Executive or the Government in London," he said.

"It will bring answers to families, which is most important, but we will also pursue criminal justice outcomes where it is achievable and we will bring people some degree of closure and ability to tell their story." Mr Hamilton said the delay is exacerbating the hurt of victims and leaving the PSNI to "soak up" issues that should be dealt with through new mechanisms which include an independent investigatory unit, a truth recovery body and an oral archive.

He denied suggestions that it was inappropriate for him to be making political comments.

"I don't think it's overstepping the mark to come out and declare our position," he said.

"I acknowledge the hard work of our politicians but they simply haven't come far enough."

Addressing them directly, Mr Hamilton said: "You haven't delivered on institutions you said you were going to deliver and I need those - this is having an adverse affect on public confidence in policing."

Responding to allegations of collusion which emerged during the Gary Haggarty trial, he said it had not been "easy listening" for the PSNI and insisted a Historical Investigations Unit is the best way to deal with misconduct by police, other state actors and terrorists.

"I have no question around the independence of this organisation but I accept that many others do. If that is how we are perceived, and if there is an alternative way set out in the Stormont House infrastructure, then lets get on with it," he said.

Belfast Telegraph

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