“The HET is doing very good work, so it should be retained.”

In the Observer Henry McDonald reports the opinion of the Conservative Party’s shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, Owen Paterson, MP, on retaining and expanding the role of the Historical Enquiries Team. It makes sense politically but there’s no mention of the necessary funding.. and if policing and justice powers were devolved by that time? Adds It’s a response to the proposals contained in the Consultative Group on the Past’s report.

Owen Paterson, the shadow Northern Ireland secretary, told the Observer that in power the Conservatives would keep the team in business. Paterson also repeated his pledge that a Tory government would scrap plans under Eames/Bradley to hand over £12,000 to relatives of everyone who died in the Troubles, including families of dead terrorists. “I am impressed by the historical enquiries team’s work so far. I think their remit should be brought up to date. The HET is doing very good work, so it should be retained. Their role should be expanded – they could, for instance, conduct a new inquiry into the Omagh bomb,” Paterson said.

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  • Damian O’Loan

    Has he been poorly briefed, or:

    1. Is he against the suggestion of combining HET and PONI, thus far agreed to by all parties? Or does he simply wish to cease investigation into the past conduct of the police?

    2. Is he against the cessation of Inquiries suggested by Eames-Bradley?

    3. Is there a possibility of new evidence to justify that suggestion?

    I notice his deadline is “the Autumn” for a beginning to loyalist decommissioning – has the six-month suggestion slipped already?

    While Raymond McCord may well welcome prolonging the work of the HET, there is no suggestion under Eames-Bradley to scrap it. This seems like spin to cover a suggestion to scrap all inquiries into collusion, across all axes, and other Troubles-era conduct by the police.

  • Pete Baker

    Damian

    From the Consultative Group report’s executive summary

    A new independent Unit dealing with historical cases would be created within the Legacy Commission, which would continue to review and investigate historical cases, backed by police powers. This would constitute the second strand of the Commission’s work.

    The new Review and Investigation Unit would take over the work of the Historical Enquiries Team and the Police Ombudsman’s Unit dealing with the historical cases. The need for these would fall away when the new Unit is established. The new Unit would build on the work they have done to date. [added emphasis]

  • Brian Walker

    On the Legacy Commission, might not private decisions without judicial process contravene human rights? Patterson’s approach is politically astute, as it will appeal to Unionists (small u as well as UU). All the UUs need (all!) now is a deal with the DUP and a couple of charismatic candidates and they might win one more seat…Like his demarche in Scotland, another sign from the Conservatives that Cameron would intend to be “PM of the whole UK not PM of England.” That may be the real significance of whatever the arrangement is/will be with the UUs – not any real expectation of more seats.

  • cynic

    “private decisions without judicial process contravene human rights”

    It’s worse than that. What’s proposed has no real protections during the investigative process (whatever that may actually be) so the entire process is fatally flawed legally.

    But even discussing it seems a total waste of time. It has so pissed off everyone that it’s a dead duck

  • Damian O’Loan

    Pete,

    I was a little hasty in my initial judgement of the report, but what Eames-Bradley recommended in their full report was ‘upwards harmonisation’, so not decreasing the statutory powers of either office regarding historical inquiries.

    So while HET would disappear in name, there would nevertheless be a body with the same powers doing the same job.

    From the full report:

    “(1) A new independent Unit dealing with historical cases would be created within the
    new Commission, which would continue to review and investigate historical cases,
    backed by police powers.
    (2) This new Review and Investigation Unit would take over the work of the HET and
    the Police Ombudsman’s Unit dealing with the historical cases. The need for these
    would fall away when the new Unit is established.62 The new Unit would build on
    the work they have done to date but the PSNI and the Police Ombudsman would be
    freed from the burden of investigating historical cases so as to focus on the future.”

    This is significantly different from the Conservative’s position. It will be interesting to see if that is also the UUP position.

  • Damian O’Loan

    Brian,

    I’m no lawyer, but I would imagine it would be highly susceptible to judicial review, abolishing as it would any mechanism for justice regarding crimes committed on behalf of the state.

  • cynic

    So lets just consider this.

    The HET is part of the Police and acccountable to the Policing Board. It has police powers and presumably operates to Police Standards. It can be called to account by the Board, the SoS, the Police Ombudsman, etc, etc, etc.

    Eames Bradley wants to see it report to an International Commissioner, who is accountable to whom? No one. For what? Who will investigate his or her conduct or that of their staff? What powers will his staff have? Coercive police powers? If so, what democratic safeguards will be in place?

    If they want to detain people, where will they hold them? Who will prosecute them? Where will the staff come from? Where will they fined trained experienced competent people to do all this?

    At a stroke the Policing Board, the Ombudsman and even the new Justice Minister are cut out. Negated. Undermined. Emasculated.

    Sop if we were to do this, what would be the point in having any of these things. the proposals are worse than ineffective. They are fundamentally, totally undemocratic.

  • joeCanuck

    We have to put this behind us. The HET has been working for how long and has solved how many murders?
    Many experts would have it that if you don’t solve most murders within a few days, the chances of solving are slim indeed. Notwithstanding a few “cold cases” successes.