Yesterday afternoon the Office of the Police Ombudsman delivered 26 letters to our offices which were addressed to 26 families whom Relatives for Justice supports, with a c/o Relatives for Justice address.
Apart from the opening line of address each letter said exactly the same thing – that due to the Legacy Act the Police Ombudsman is not in a “position to investigate” their complaints.
The letters are impersonal, not as much as mentioning the name of the person killed during the conflict, and acknowledge that families may view this as an “unwelcome” development.
Some of the families who have received these letters made complaints to the Ombudsman’s office many, many, years ago.
This morning our offices are contacting the families involved to deliver this devastating news to bereaved parents, children, spouses and siblings. We need to visit some very elderly relatives who will not be in a position to receive phonecalls due to their infirmity.
Speaking this morning Relatives for Justice Chairperson Professor Emeritus Bill Rolston said,
“I can hardly describe the impact of these letters to families. While a totally inappropriate process of decision making and information sharing by the Police Ombudsman, this is the devastating outworking of the British Government’s shameful Legacy Act.
“Further it is a legislative horror that is undermining the criminal justice architecture of the Good Friday Agreement.
“But most of all this development will have long-term implications with another trauma heaped upon already traumatized families.
“The pretence that this is in any way a victim-centred process is exposed, but that is no comfort to families who are once again being let down by the state.”