Relatives for Justice (RFJ) met with Justice Minister David Ford at Castle Buildings, Stormont Estate last week.
Speaking after the meeting RFJ’s Chairperson, Clara Reilly, said;
“We raised with the Minister concerns about a range of criminal justice and statutory mechanisms tasked with examining killings and which families bereaved are engaged with.
“These included the future of the PSNI’s HET; the inquest system and the Police Ombudsman.
“In terms of the HET the uncertainty about its future ever since the HMIC report of July 2013 has managed to fudge a replacement body that is independent. Simply put the HET is in the way of progressing the wider debate of what is actually required – an Article 2 complaint investigative mechanism. We put to the Minister our view that the Historical Investigative Unit (HIU) as recommended in the Haass/O’Sullivan proposals would make a valuable contribution to addressing the legacy of the past for families and wider society.
“We also raised the issue of further legislative powers for the Police Ombudsman and in particular the ability to compel former officers and we expressed our disappointment that this is currently being blocked by the DUP. We particularly find this move by the DUP to be a wholly unacceptable position from a party in government and that claims to be a supporter of law, order and justice. We further ask why would former police officers, including the organisation that represents former officers, who spent their careers asking the public to assist them in solving crime refuse to cooperate with the Police Ombudsman?
“On inquests we raised the specific area of delays and disclosures by the PSNI’s Legacy Unit that has hampered progress. This too included the role of former RUC and Special Branch officers within the PSNI and the Legacy Unit. We stated our position that there is a deliberate process of stalling and using the argument of ‘resources’ from which to virtually halt proceedings.
“We also noted that in the absence of an independent mechanism to address the past families were seeking to reopen inquests to have the circumstances of the killings of their loved ones reexamined. This had been prompted by previous investigative failings on the part of the RUC at the time and where evidence had been both withheld and where new evidence was now emerging. In many ways the inquest system has become the default position in the absence of an agreed mechanism. And with the Attorney General reopening more cases there is a need for more coroners.
“On the matter of resources we made the case that the London Treasury should carry these costs and that it is unfair for these to be administered via the block grant. We believe that there is an exceptionality case to be made in terms of legacy much in the same way legacy payments have been made in respect to the RUC reserve; Patten severance; prison officers; and so on from London and not the Executive.
“We equally raised this matter of resources in terms of the UK government’s responsibility as a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights as opposed to the Executive being a signatory and that resourcing directly from London was also required in this context too in terms of meetings the UK government’s obligation concerning human rights.” ENDS