The announced resumption of police probes into incidents from Northern Ireland’s troubled past has been welcomed.
Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Chief Constable Simon Byrne announced last month that legacy investigations and reviews would be paused during the coronavirus pandemic to free up officers.
On Thursday, it was announced that the suspension was to be lifted.
Victims’s Commission Judith Thompson welcomed the decision.
Legacy reviews and investigations to recommence pic.twitter.com/WXJo7DVrvV— Police Service NI (@PoliceServiceNI) April 23, 2020
The PSNI’s Legacy Investigation Branch is dealing with more than 1,000 unresolved cases.
Deputy Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said officers and staff will resume duties from May 1.
“Legacy Investigation Branch was one of a number of functions within PSNI that were redeployed in order to provide immediate resilience to PSNI’s critical functions,” he said.
“Following a meeting of the PSNI’s Service Executive Team on Wednesday April 22, it was agreed that this temporary suspension would be lifted and that officers and staff within Legacy Investigation Branch would resume their normal duties with effect from May 1 2020.
“Having implemented a range of social distancing measures, we have been able to limit the numbers of Covid-19-related absences to levels which have allowed us to sustain service delivery across the organisation and in this case return officers who had been providing resilience to those functions to their core roles.”
Mr Byrne earlier updated members of the Victims and Survivors Forum on the matter.
“I welcomed the opportunity this afternoon to join the Victims’ Commissioner and members of the Victims and Survivors Forum to discuss a range of issues about legacy investigations,” he said.
“We were able to announce first-hand the restoration of legacy investigations from May 1.
“Some of the commentary and personal narrative was very powerful and underpins my commitment to provide a service to victims of the Troubles which is not only fair and transparent, but also done with compassion and empathy.”
Ms Thompson also welcomed the chief constable’s meeting with victims and survivors to discuss legacy matters.
She said Mr Byrne indicated that he is looking into setting up a dedicated family liaison team within the Legacy Investigation Branch and was committed to trauma training.
“It was most important that the commission and the victims and survivors met with the chief constable today to discuss legacy matters, and the vital need for a victim and survivor centred approach in relation to ongoing legacy investigations,” she added.