Freedom of Information request data obtained by Relatives for Justice from the PSNI confirms that the recently appointed head of the Historical Enquiries Team is a former RUC Officer. When asked about the job specification and criteria, the PSNI confirmed that the appointed officer, Brian Hanna, was the only person considered for the post. There was no attempt to advertise the post more widely or recruit someone with external experience. The question of independent oversight of investigations – in order to fulfil article 2 (right to life) requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights – was therefore not an essential requirement.
Brian Hanna reports to ACC Drew Harris, also a former RUC officer. In turn, ACC Harris now reports to Chief Constable George Hamilton, another former RUC officer, albeit with considerable experience in other police territories. It follows that the whole chain of command for the HET fails to meet the independence criteria required for procedural compliance with Article 2.
Mike Ritchie, Casework Manager with RfJ said: “The fact that there appears to have been no effort to ensure that the management of HET was independent of contamination from the RUC legacy shows scant disregard for victims’ experience. Our clients have had a poor experience of HET so-called reviews. If the PSNI was to respond meaningfully to the criticisms contained in the damning HMIC report into the HET in July 2013, one would have expected more care in the appointment of the new boss of the HET.
“This news confirms RfJ’s position that the HET should cease operations and an entirely separate body established as proposed by the Consultative Group on the Past and the Haass/O’Sullivan proposals.
“Our view is reinforced by other FoI figures obtained by law firm Kevin Winters’. These confirm a continuing preponderance of former RUC in key HET positions.”
The data is as follows:
- Of the 93 staff overall, 45 are review positions and 11 are intelligence. The rest have support functions.
- Of the 45 review staff 21 (47%) are former RUC or armed forces while of the 11 intelligence staff, 9 (82%) are former RUC (by implication special branch).
Since July 2013, the HET has been in suspension and no reports have been completed.
Mike Ritchie said: “Former RUC officers have sewn up the past and are being paid to sit tight on it. Such jobs for the boys/girls is no way to deal with the legacy of conflict and all the pain and hurt of relatives. It is also sending two fingers to the European Court of Human Rights.”
A Copy of the answer from the PSNI can be accessed here FOI re Head of HET