Northern Ireland

Almost 400 Police Ombudsman investigations to be scrapped

Gerard Gibson was shot dead by the British army in July 1972
Gerard Gibson was shot dead by the British army in July 1972

The Police Ombudsman will be unable to complete almost 400 Troubles-linked investigations as a result of the British government’s controversial Legacy Act.

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act passed into law in September and provides immunity in some circumstances along with ending civil cases and inquests that have not reached their findings stage by next May.

The new law, opposed by victims’ groups, will also bring an end to all investigations undertaken by the Police Ombudsman’s Historical Investigations Directorate.

Under the new legislation, all Troubles investigations will transfer to the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR), which many victims and relatives are opposed to.

Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson
Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson

The Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson currently has around 450 cases on her books.

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However, it confirmed on Thursday that the ombudsman's office expects to complete just 60-70 before next May.

“We have a remaining caseload of around 450 complaints, and we anticipate that we will be able to complete and report on some 60 to 70 of those,” a spokesman said.

“Of the remaining cases, a significant number were subject to enquiries which it is now clear we will be unable to complete before  May 1 2024.

“However, due to resource limitations, we have been unable to commence enquiries in relation to the majority of these.”

In recent years the Police Ombudsman has produced several reports that conclude there was “collusive behaviour” between members of the RUC and loyalist paramilitary groups in the murder of innocent Catholics.

In recent days around 200 letters have been sent to families telling them that investigations into the murder of loved ones will not be completed.

It is understood more letters are expected to be sent out in the coming weeks.

Some of those already contacted are linked to high profile Troubles incidents, including the activities of the Shankill Butchers.

Gerard Gibson was shot dead by the British army in July 1972
Gerard Gibson was shot dead by the British army in July 1972

The sister of 16-year-old Gerard Gibson, who was shot dead by the British army in Lenadoon, west Belfast in July 1972, has spoken of her anger that his case will not be investigated.

“We have been let down so many times by the state," said Margaret Gibson.

“Our family were let down by the RUC by not investigating Gerard’s killing properly in 1972. 

“The Historical Enquiries Team (HET), who looked at Gerard’s case, failed us and they were eventually shut down.

“Now the Police Ombudsman have failed us as well despite the fact that we have had a complaint lodged with them for over 10 years.”

 Paul Butler of Relatives for Justice
Paul Butler of Relatives for Justice

Paul Butler from campaign group Relatives for Justice said some relatives who made complaints have passed away.

“Some of the complaints that RFJ submitted to the Police Ombudsman on behalf of relatives have been with the Ombudsman for over 10 years,” he said.

“In some cases, relatives have since died while others are very elderly and suffer from ill health.

“It’s totally unacceptable that victims have had to wait for over a decade to then to be told that their complaint will no longer be investigated.”