Northern Ireland

New Operation Kenova head 'committed to continuing' work of investigation team

Sir Iain Livingstone, Officer in Overall Command at Operation Kenova
Sir Iain Livingstone, Officer in Overall Command at Operation Kenova

The new head of Operation Kenova has said he is “committed to continuing” the work of the Troubles investigation team after its former boss Jon Boutcher took up a new post as PSNI chief constable.

Mr Boutcher stepped down as the Officer in Overall Command (OiOC) at Operation Kenova after he was appointed as interim chief constable of the PSNI last month.

He was confirmed as the permanent chief constable this week.

He has now been replaced as OiOC at Operation Kenova by former Police Scotland chief constable Sir Iain Livingstone.

While Mr Boutcher already had a high profile in the north due to his work with Operation Kenova, Mr Livingstone is less well known.

He has, however, previously worked in the north, having been seconded as a senior detective to the Police Ombudsman's office to carry out an independent investigation regarding a matter unconnected to Operation Kenova.

A former lawyer, Mr Livingstone worked as a solicitor in Glasgow and London before joining the police in 1992.

Read More:

  • Operation Kenova report ‘ready for publication', says new police chief
  • Jon Boutcher insists new PSNI role will not delay publication of Operation Kenova report into Stakeknife

He initially served in Edinburgh and Lothians as a patrol officer, later rising through the ranks to lead the organisation.

Appointed as interim chief constable at Police Scotland in 2017, he took on the role on a permanent basis a year later and retired in August.

Sir Iain Livingstone, Officer in Overall Command at Operation Kenova
Sir Iain Livingstone, Officer in Overall Command at Operation Kenova

Mr Livingstone has been involved with Operation Kenova in various capacities since it was set up in 2016 as a member of both the independent steering group and chair of its governance board.

He said on Thursday that he will make the needs of those impacted by the Troubles a priority.

"Victims and their loved ones have always been at the heart of Kenova and that will continue under my leadership,” he said.

"I have watched Kenova’s progress closely and have been hugely impressed by its ability to access information not available to previous investigations and inquiries, acting with diligence and rigour in the search for the truth.

"I am committed to continuing Kenova's work through this next phase and look forward to working with families, communities and all agencies in the months ahead."

Operation Kenova was initially set up to investigate the activities of the notorious British agent known as Stakeknife in 2016.

West Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci denied he was the agent known as Stakeknife
West Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci denied he was the agent known as Stakeknife

West Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci, who it is claimed died earlier this year, has been named as the British army agent, however, he always denied the allegation.

The work of the Operation Kenova team has expanded over recent years to include several other high-profile Troubles-linked investigations and reviews.

These include Operation Denton, also known as the Barnard Review, which examines dozens of murders carried out by the notorious Glenanne Gang.

The loyalist murder squad, which included members of the RUC, UDR and UVF, is thought to have been responsible for around 120 deaths across mid-Ulster in the 1970s.

Jean Smyth-Campbell was shot dead in west Belfast in 1972
Jean Smyth-Campbell was shot dead in west Belfast in 1972

The Kenova team is also investigating the killing of Jean Smyth-Campbell through Operation Mizzenmast, in west Belfast in 1972, while Operation Turma concentrates on an IRA bomb attack that claimed the lives of three RUC members in 1982 in Co Armagh.

The investigation team’s first report, into the activities of Stakeknife, is due to be published in the near future.

Former Operation Kenova head and new PSNI Chief Constable Jon Boutcher
Former Operation Kenova head and new PSNI Chief Constable Jon Boutcher

Mr Boutcher has said Operation Kenova has been “the most important work” of his career.

Speaking to The Irish News he confirmed that he will have no involvement in the delivery of the forthcoming Stakeknife report.

“That was never the plan,” he said.

“The independence of Kenova, I built that into the whole structure, the DNA of Kenova is about independence.

“I am now in the role as the chief constable...there is no conflict by the way in my role now because that report was written, finished and presented to the PSNI before I took on this role.

“It’s only right, not just for the optics, but because of the way I built the Kenova model that I am now not involved in the process or publication of that report, it should be for others to do.”

The Stakeknife report has passed all security checks and been provided to the PSNI for a decision regarding publication.

“It’s done, it’s written, it can’t be changed,” Mr Boutcher said.

“The wider Kenova cases, the Operation Denton cases, the Glenanne Gang cases, obviously I have been involved in designing the way that will be dealt with, that’s been reviewed by the independent reviews that I have put in place.

“I have included, since I began that work, Ian Livingston, almost as a shadow to me as the Officer in Overall Charge.

“So there has been almost a seamless transition into Ian taking on that role.

“He will finish that work.”

Mr Boutcher said his successor at Operation Kenova will have control over any future report into the Glenanne Gang as part of Operation Denton.

“The Denton report will be his report,” Mr Boutcher said.

“The work around Operation Thurma, the murder of the police officers, Operation Mizzenmast, the murder of Jean Smyth-Campbell, I have done a huge amount of the work in those cases.

“Ian now takes on that responsibility and he is up to speed.

“He has been involved in that process through the independent steering group, which is that holds us to account and through chairing the governance board.”

“So, firstly, structurally, that’s reassuring to everybody.”

Mr Boutcher explained that the Operation Kenova investigation model was designed to cope in his absence and that the people he has dealt with understand that.

“The response though of the families, knowing Ian is going to be picking up this work, that there was a plan if anything happened to me, if I became ill,” he said.

“Kenova can’t be about me, it’s got to be about the model that’s put in place, that Ian was that resilience piece, he was that business continuity.

“That’s understood by the families and that’s been really well received by families.”

Mr Boutcher confirmed that his successor was in the north last week and has met with victims’ relatives.

He also confirmed he will continue to have contact with the families he has worked with over recent years.

“So, he has started to meet families, those briefings, some of those briefings by the way, I will still see families, I will never walk away from families or public service,” he said.

“So, some of that I will still do - with regards to the individual fruits of information to families with the Kenova team to make sure that they understand what’s being done.

“I will speak to families to make sure they are happy with what’s being done.

“There’s a bandwidth issue here, I don’t want to conflate issues.

“There’s only so much one person can do.”

John Boutcher
John Boutcher

Mr Boutcher emphasised his continuing involvement in the wider process.

“I have recused all responsibility around the Kenova report, that’s one issue,” he said.

“What I won’t do, and I’ve not done, and I’ve not undertaken to do, is walk away from those families.

“Ian Livingstone has now got that responsibility.

“Even today I have had a conversation with three families who talked to me about this appointment.

“I don’t suddenly become incommunicado to them.

“That’s not the way this is going to work.”