Northern Ireland news

Families' disappointment at Chief Constable's plan to appeal Glenanne ruling

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton has said he is in an "impossible position" when it comes to legacy investigations.

RELATIVES of victims of the Glenanne Gang have insisted Chief Constable George Hamilton has a duty to abide by a court ruling ordering him to complete an investigation into dozens of loyalist killings.

Mr Hamilton, in an unprecedented public appeal to politicians carried in yesterday's Irish News, said a failure to implement agreements on dealing with the past has come at a "cost to confidence in policing".

He also confirmed that he would be appealing a judgment in July ordering the completion of an overarching investigation into more than 100 killings linked to the Glenanne Gang.

The killings, which took place in Armagh, Tyrone, Down, Louth and Monaghan in the 1970s, were investigated by the now defunct Historical Enquiries Team but the report was not finished.

Mr Hamilton said disagreement on dealing with the past, legal challenges over the use of outside forces and budget cuts left him in "an impossible position".

"The High Court has found that while I have a legal obligation to investigate the circumstances of the Hillcrest bombing and other related cases, my organisation is not sufficiently independent to conduct that investigation," he said.

The Chief Constable added that it would cost around £60m from the policing budget to outsource any investigation into the Glenanne killings.

Victims' families said they were disappointed and claimed Mr Hamilton has to date "done nothing" to comply with Mr Justice Treacy's ruling.

Alan Brecknell of the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC), whose father Trevor was murdered in December 1975, said: "There have been no meetings, no discussions, no consultations.

"That is why the court reconvened in November and, once again, ordered him to comply with its July ruling. In a highly unusual move, the court even issued an 'Order of Mandamus' informing the chief constable he should take action immediately.

"He has yet, however, to even request a meeting.

"The chief constable predicts it will cost £60m to fund the report which the court has ordered. This is the first time we have seen any such sum mentioned and we wonder how he comes up with this figure."

The PFC warned that any appeal by the Chief Constable could drag the legal process out for another year, at a time when many victims are elderly.

It said eight close family members have died since the case first came to court in November 2014.

However, it added that it agreed with Mr Hamilton that the current impasse on creating bodies to investigate the past is damaging confidence in the PSNI.

"We agree with him that the families have also been failed by politicians, particularly in London, who have yet to deal with the legacy of conflict.

"We cannot understand or accept this intolerable delay in launching the required consultation. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire could - and should - do so immediately.

"But this does not absolve the chief constable of his legal duty to abide by the High Court's ruling."

Mr Hamilton said at a press conference yesterday that he had no other choice but to appeal the Glenanne ruling.

"I need the clarity from the appeal court that will give that judicial clarity regarding what the police role in all of this is - what we're permitted to do, what we're required to do, because that is in dispute at the moment," he said.

"We have conflicting judgments at times, we have conflicts within judgments at times. I feel sorry for the families in all of this.

"I don't want to go appealing these judgments but actually I'm left, legally, in a position where I have no other option."

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