Northern Ireland Office in legal move to keep evidence for legacy cases
The failure of stalled Stormont institutions to deal with the legacy of the Troubles has forced a legal move to protect potentially vital evidence for future examination by the long-awaited Historical Investigations Unit (HIU).
The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) has extended temporary protections for Troubles-related biomaterials - such as fingerprint and DNA records taken from killings - until October 2020, the Detail has reported.
It confirmed that NIO brought legislation before Westminster in order to secure the records, which put a stay on the roll out of the Protection of Freedoms Act (PoFA) in Northern Ireland, which no longer allows police to retain biometric material indefinitely and introduced strict rules on the retention or destruction of such material.
At least 19,000 legacy fingerprint records taken by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) during the Troubles period are among the biometric materials protected.
The Detail reported that victims' group, WAVE is subsequently seeking assurances with NIO that all legacy records are being correctly preserved.
"Many victims and survivors of the Troubles are waiting for the creation of a series of institutions such as the HIU. They will want the optimum conditions in place to address/investigate the death of their loved one," said its CEO, Sandra Peake.
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission's chief commissioner Les Allamby said it underlined the importance of implementing the legacy institutions as soon as possible.