07 July 2008

UK MPs say PSNI looks too much into the Past

A new report has accused the police in the North of spending too much time with investigating unsolved murders from the past, the time commonly known in Ireland as 'the Troubles'.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of the UK Parliament has found that the ability of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to cope with present-day terrorist threats "is being compromised because there is so much focus on cold case murders from the 30-year conflict".

In its "Policing the Past" report the committee noted that the costs of the PSNI's Historical Enquiries Team (HET), set up to examine more than 3200 killings that happened in the Six Counties between 1968 and 1998, could spiral to more than £ 45 million, which is 60% over the original budget.

However, despite the financial and manpower resources being diverted into the project, so far only one case out of more than 1100 opened has been passed to the Public Prosecution Service with a recommendation to bring charges.

The work of the independent Police Ombudsman is also being compromised by the need to re-examine allegations of police misconduct over the 30-year conflict, British MPs said in their report.

Committee chairman Sir Patrick Cormack, MP said the HET, which was established in 2005, should be re-assessed, with priority given to cases with a realistic chance of progression. He added that the police had to be able to maintain their focus on the present day.

"The Police Service of Northern Ireland faces significant demands in terms of its work with all of the different historical investigations, and we are concerned about the impact of this in relation to the police service's primary role in policing the present," he said in London.

The report raises the question how much sense the work of the HET really makes, or if it is just one more instrument of UK state bureaucracy, created to keep an oversized group of British and Northern securocrats happy and occupied, forever and ever raking over the past.

Critics of the policing and security system in the North have long suggested the establishment of a Peace and Reconciliation Commission, based on the South African model, to deal with the terror, murders and political crimes of the past. So far the idea has not found enough support from the current political leaders in the North. Instead the HET was set up. If they continue working at their current speed, they might be completing their task by the end of the century.

The Emerald Islander

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