Ombudsman to restart 150 murder probes

Published Wednesday, 23 January 2013
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Investigations into more than 150 unsolved murders linked to the Troubles are to restart.

Ombudsman to restart 150 murder probes
The Inspectorate deemed enough progress had been made to restart investigations. (© Pacemaker)

Work by the Police Ombudsman was suspended following a Criminal Justice Inspectorate (CJI) probe in 2011 that found the way in which the Ombudsman's office conducted its investigations compromised its independence.

But on Wednesday, the CJI Chief Inspector said "substantial progress" had been made by the Police Ombudsman Northern Ireland (OPONI) and recommended the Ombudsman's office should recommence their work on the cases.

"New structures and processes had been put in place within the OPONI which focused on providing comprehensive and robust quality assurance of investigations into historical cases and the subsequent production of public reports," said Brendan McGuigan.

The CJI found reports by the Ombudsman's office had been influenced and buffeted by feedback from families, their legal representatives and the PSNI.

It led to the resignation of Chief Executive Sam Pollock, who claimed the Ombudsman's office lacked independence.

NI Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire said he believed his office could now investigate the matters in an independent manner.

"Under the law, the PSNI's Historical Enquiries Team has had to refer certain incidents during 'The Troubles' to my Office for independent investigation," he explained.

"Members of the public across the community have also made complaints about serious matters, including deaths, during this period."

"We have more than 150 such cases which we must now consider. It is important that these matters are dealt with," added Dr Maguire.

Justice Minister David Ford said the announcement was a positive development.

I am conscious of the distress the decision to suspend the investigations caused the families, police and the wider public.

Justice Minister David Ford

He added: "It is however vitally important that there is public confidence in the way in which investigations are carried out and reported."

Mr Ford said his department is continuing to work on proposed changes to the structure, role and powers of the Police Ombudsman's Office.

Mr McGuigan said the CJI will revisit the issue once further historic reports have been published.

The Ombudsman's historic investigations unit, which has a staff of 40 and an annual budget of £2m, will to look into allegations of RUC involvement in criminality between 1968 and 1998.

It is expected to complete two complex investigations - some of which may be linked to 20 others - and six stand-alone cases each year.

The director of the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ), Brian Gormally welcomed the announcement.

"CAJ welcomes the positive report by Criminal Justice Inspection into the Office of the Police Ombudsman and the recommendation that investigations into historic cases be re-started," he said.

"CAJ brought to light the undermining of the independence of the Office under the previous Ombudsman and is pleased to see that many of the issues have now been addressed.

"However, the Chief Inspector has correctly stated that the Inspectorate could only truly assess whether or not the full independence of the Office had been restored after public reports on historical cases had been published and that he will return to the issue once this has happened."

Mr Gormally said the committee would monitor the Ombudsman's process of reform.

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said he hoped the Ombudsman's office can carry out the investigations "efficiently and speedily".

"This is welcome news for the families of the victims and it is crucial that they have confidence in the office to carry out these investigations.

"Under these processes installed by the new Ombudsman Michael Maguire, which have been approved by the Criminal Justice Inspectorate, the investigations should proceed free from interference," he said.

But DUP MLA Paul Givan said the office should focus on current issues within the PSNI and his party are opposed to the historical investigations.

"It has been used by republicans and nationalists as a means to further their efforts at re-writing history by creating a narrative that only deals with deaths were the security forces was involved whilst the main terrorist organisation namely the IRA is not subjected to the same scrutiny."

© UTV News
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34 Comments
ruc widow in limavady wrote (664 days ago):
UTV why can i not answer Ulysses comment. Clear he has not respect of my justice only to continue bitterness against the RUC. Calling myself tarred with tribalism is totally stupid. All I want is the voices of the many RUC widows who in this country cannot get on with life trying to forgive and never forgetting but the ever present hatred hurled at us from Ulysses and his SF/IRA partners. It seems ok to call for justice but not if you are a RUC widow.
lorna in limavady wrote (667 days ago):
John McC Belfast. I agree with you but when the state goverment have ex terrorists voted in as ministers where does that leave justice for their victims.and When the state pays only for justice for some when does justice begin for the IRA victims. The state should protect ALL its citizens alike. It did nothing to protect its police force by removing their right to question without prejudices and not having the death penality as a means to limit their deaths.
jobe in USA wrote (667 days ago):
surely what most people here are failing to understand is that the RUC did vigorously investigate murders perpetrated by republican paramilitaries. The reason most of these cases are being reinvestigated is due to the known fact that murders by loyalist paramilitaries (sometimes with state collusion) were not properly investigated (or were deliberately hindered). If anyone has new evidence relating to unsolved murders they are free to pass the information to the police. There is large amounts of information available that could convict loyalist murderers. the amount of information available to help convict republican murderers is much less and the PSNI have shown how hard the are trying still to convict more by their ongoing efforts to obtain the boston college tapes, still investigting the omagh bombers ect, ect. Of course the RUC heavily investigates the murders of its own and that is proved by the recent cases brought before the courts relating to republican murderers over the past 3 decades.
ruc widow in limavady wrote (667 days ago):
Ulysses Belfast .I am not on a "Bloody" pedistal. When a man put on a uniform to serve. When your family life was under threat the constant fear of just when the terrorist would strike a completely innocent family you would better understand where i come from. We are constantly have to live now with the fact no one speaks up for the RUC. every opportunity is taken by Sf/ IRA to destroy a force that suffered danger and since they never succeeded in reducting the force by murder now they find ways to discredit them.now in the country we are told to forgive and get on with living with the fact we have terrorists in government. All I ask give me the same justice and investigations that some get. for without that my changes of moving forward gets stuck with every news item of this nature. There should be no second class citizens in this country but the families of murdered police officers are counted less than second class.We only have to read comments like yours to know the prejudices can destroy our peace . i hold no tribalism whereever you get that from
william in wrote (667 days ago):
this story and the comments make me ashamed to be british and irish, david ford says this is a positive development. for who exactly? there is no justice in this island at all!
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