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PSNI 'don't have enough resources to deal with Troubles'

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Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin holds a press conference yesterday

Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin holds a press conference yesterday

Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin holds a press conference yesterday

The PSNI has said it is simply not equipped to deal with the burden of investigating the past as it issued a "deep and sincere apology" to the families affected by its disclosure failings.

Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin was speaking after the Police Ombudsman found that "significant, sensitive information" around a mass shooting at a bookmakers' in south Belfast was not made available to his investigators.

Five people were killed on February 5, 1992, when members of the UFF opened fire on the Sean Graham bookmakers shop on the lower Ormeau Road.

"On behalf of the Police Service, I want to say to the families who have been affected by these disclosure failings we are deeply and sincerely sorry," said DCC Martin.

"PSNI never sought to deliberately withhold this information from PONI (the Police Ombudsman) and we deeply regret that the researchers were unable to find and disclose it.

"This error became apparent when, in line with our commitment to maximum transparency, a different researcher working elsewhere in the PSNI found the material while preparing for disclosure in response to civil litigation.

"We are transparent and open about disclosure. On this occasion the PSNI made a mistake and for that we are deeply sorry," he said.

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"We acknowledge the damage to public confidence and we are deeply disappointed, but the Chief Constable, only months after being appointed in 2014, spoke publicly about this very issue. The PSNI is not equipped to deal with this.

"In 2014 we were promised a Historic Investigations Unit and we still don't have it. Enough is enough. We will invite the Ombudsman to have full and unfettered access to our legacy systems and he can decide what is relevant to his investigations.

"The Chief Constable has sought legal advice as to how to make this possible and we will seek to make progress as quickly as we can. This is a bold step in demonstrating we have nothing to hide.

"We have some 44m legacy records on paper and microfiche only. Many millions more of other records on IT platforms," he said.

"Some of those platforms are now sufficiently old and vulnerable that we are down to two or three terminals. We have systems with no search facilities, systems that don't talk to each other. Tens of millions of pieces of information are in disparate parts of the organisation and we don't have officers of experience and built up corporate memory.

"In the last 20 years we've had this organic growth in the need to investigate the past. In September 1999 the Patten report did not envisage this.

"Many officers who left the service under the Patten arrangements were hired back as temporary workers. That was criticised and the Chief Constable removed those temporary workers from employment. One of the consequences was that we lost experience.

"We recognise the thirst for information and that the police service has an important part to play, but the weight of burden sits on our shoulders.

"Now we're telling the Ombudsman let's work together - you make the decision about what you need. This is a step to try to address public concern that the police are trying to delay, thwart and impede these investigations. Nothing could be further from the truth.

"PSNI is committed to improving our disclosure processes. As soon as this organisational failing came to our attention, we commissioned work to address it and we anticipate that we will have made substantial changes in the coming months.

"We would welcome any independent review to support us in that work but the changes required will need significant financial investment.

"PSNI have for a long time made clear that we are not adequately resourced to deal with the past and we have an outstanding business cases with the Department for Justice for further substantial investment in our disclosure processes."


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