Northern Ireland news

PSNI chief constable George Hamilton: Theresa May is wrong about legacy cases

Theresa May claimed historical investigations focused on members of the armed forces. Picture by PA Wire

THE prime minister's claim that only former police officers and British soldiers are being investigated in Troubles-related probes is not backed up by figures, the PSNI chief constable has said.

Theresa May claimed last week that "the only people being investigated for these issues that happened in the past are those in our armed forces or those who served in law enforcement in Northern Ireland".

Secretary of State Karen Bradley also claimed current historical probes displayed a "disproportionate emphasis on the actions of the military and law-enforcement bodies".

However, chief constable George Hamilton said yesterday Mrs May's comments were not borne out by statistics.

He said figures which show former security force members are linked to only 30% of cases within the PSNI's legacy investigations branch "speak for themselves".

"We're knocking lots of doors of people who were involved in terrorist activity, and certainly beyond the police and military community," he told the BBC.

Chief constable George Hamilton said yesterday Mrs May's comments were not borne out by statistics.

Both Downing Street and the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) yesterday again declined to qualify or correct Mrs May's claims.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood called on Mrs Bradley to "correct the record" in relation to legacy issues.

"It is a scandal that both the secretary of state and the British prime minister misled parliament – they must be accountable for peddling these falsehoods," he said.

"The British government must urgently act to set the record straight if it is to have any hope of rebuilding confidence surrounding their role in dealing with the past."

A spokeswoman for Mrs May said the British government position had not changed since last week.

"The current process is flawed and isn’t working for anyone, including for our armed forces and victims of the Troubles," she said.

"Right now too many cases are not being investigated, including hundreds of murders by terrorists."

An NIO spokesman indicated that there were no plans for the secretary of state to correct the record.

"We want the Historical Investigations Unit set up so that all outstanding cases are completed in a fair, balanced and proportionate way," the spokesman said.

"That is why we have launched the consultation so that everyone can have their say on the best way to deal with the past."

Last week, the Northern Ireland Victims' Commissioner said ex-soldiers had not been unfairly targeted by legacy investigations.

Judith Thompson said she could only assume that Mrs May was "poorly briefed", adding that the facts she quoted were "incorrect".

Ms Thompson told the BBC that some of the prime minister's comments were "completely in contravention of the facts".

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