European law states investigations into state killings must be fully independent

Last week, as flagged by Pete, it was being reported that:

The Historical Enquiries Team cannot investigate them because European law states investigations into state killings must be fully independent.

As the HET is accountable to the chief constable, it cannot investigate killings by police officers.

A whole week later, it appears that the Historical Enquiries Team do actually report on cases where police officers were involved in killings (see Turgon’s thread on Loughgall, where the RUC’s HMSU took part as well as the SAS).

So, are we to await the reports on the other 49 cases where police officers were involved, or, just the toughening media treatment of the HET (well, their boss, the Chief Constable), the Office of the Police Ombudsman, etc?

Bizarrely, the HET appear to have just issued a report that the Ombudsman’s Office has stated is illegal under EU law?

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  • michael-mcivor

    Sinn Fein were 100% right not to trust the HET- illegal reports- thats why they give the report to the media and not to the familys- and the media bought it-

  • John Ó Néill

    Michael – the HET do give the reports to the families – but last week there were 49 cases that couldn’t be reported on due to legal advice (for the reason given above). Our newly toughened media will no doubt fall over themselves to get to the root of this odd contradiction in PSNI-HET-OPONI policy….

  • Decimus


    I suspect that in this case the RUC did not fire a shot in anger. That might explain the discrepancy.

  • michael-mcivor


    If the r.u.c were there how do you know that none of them
    fired a shot- or did they all run away –

  • It depends on interpretation, really, and probably depends on the nature of the planning carried out by the HMSU and the SAS. If it were simply a planned defence, where the SAS were watching the station due to intelligence received, and the HMSU were not taking an active part, then I think it may be legally fine for police to investigate.

    As I understand, it’s only shootings and conspiracies to kill by Police officers which HET is not able to investigate, because the Police is independent of the Army. Those who have read Phoenix’s diaries will know whether there was a conspiracy to get their retaliation in first.

    Finally – leaks always happen if someone wants to get the word out there. This particular leak is not exactly helpful.

  • Decimus


    If the r.u.c were there how do you know that none of them
    fired a shot- or did they all run away –

    Run away from what?

  • BluesJazz

    The terrorists were not killed by the police. They were killed by the Army. It’s an internal MoD matter.
    No doubt the RMP investigated.

    Will there be a similar investigation into Bin Laden’s death?

  • Pete Baker


    You seem to be somewhat confused as to the details of the situation.

    The re-investigation of killings by the police is not within the remit of the HET – in certain circumstances. New accusations, etc. But they can if the Army is responsible. As in Loughgall.

    And all because the HET is accountable to the Chief Constable.

    Which, actually, is a very sensible position. If you think about it.

    But, heh, blame the EU and their Human Rights Directives!

  • John Ó Néill

    Hmm. So the reporting of RUC/HMSU involvement is simply CV gilding? Their operational involvement would disbar HET investigation. HET cannot investigate any police killings (apparently) which would then include killings where the RUC had an operational presence, by definition.

  • iluvni

    Are you sorry that 8 dedicated terrorists are dead, John?

  • michael-mcivor

    Are you sorry that a civilian was killed by the s.a.s iluvni-

  • Cynic2

    “Are you sorry that 8 dedicated terrorists are dead, John?”

    yes ….I rgeret every death and far better that they should have spent years in gaol for their cirmes them emerged to see how we have progressed despite all their violence …and then have to sleep every night remembering what they did and how futile it was while they watch the Ministerial cars scud up to Stormont

  • iluvni

    …whilst we have the privelege of paying them £80000 a year as Ministerial advisors?

  • Michael Shilliday

    This has nothing whatsoever to do with the EU. Not a thing. It stems from the Loughgall ECHR ruling which found a breach of Article 6 in that the investigation into the operation wasn’t independent. That ruling of course has no binding effect whatsoever on the UK Government, but I suppose they thought it best to stay with it.

  • Cynic2

    “whilst we have the privelege of paying them £80000 a year as Ministerial advisors”

    ….. and you assume that all their old friends and comrades are happy to see them do so well while they are on the dole or living on scras from the Shinner’s Table. There can be different forms of punishment

  • dwatch

    Shot IRA unit ‘fired first at SAS’ –

    But the Belfast Telegraph has revealed that the HET report will claim that the IRA men could not have been safely arrested and the soldiers were within their rights to open fire.

    Read more:

  • Intelligence Insider

    Eight heavily armed criminals plant a bomb in a police station, then attempt to murder anyone who might have survived the bomb. The criminals are then killed in the ensuing gunfight with the forces of law and order. Is there really any need for an investigation? The only sad thing in this whole matter is the death of an entirely innocent man, Mr Anthony Hughes. His family have my condolences and I do believe they should have and could have been treated much better than they were at the time. The eight criminals? I can honestly say that my only regret is that they numbered only eight.

  • Michael Shilliday

    II, we need to hold the legitimate forces of the state to a higher standard than sectarian murderers. So yes there should have been a full and independent investigation.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    But MS, while states forces of course have to operate within the law, we can’t be expected to treat them as if they are ordinary citizens when they use lethal force. We charge these people with the life-threatening work of stopping terrorists on our behalf; there is a big injustice if these people are hauled over the coals for doing their job. And they also have to be allowed to do it imperfectly.

    Critics of security force operations tend to be fairly quiet on exactly what they would propose in the alternative in the way of anti-terrorist operations. The security forces should not have carte blanche but it is reasonable to cut them a good bit of slack in situations where they are seeking to stop terrorist atrocities. We often forget the massive public value in their having the upper hand, in terms of innocent lives saved and families saved from tragedy. We all the security forces a huge debt.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    sorry, “owe” them a huge debt

  • Roy Walsh

    There are other aspects to this,
    1) Loughall barracks, located in a very Unionist village, was at the time a very well protected facility despite being largely unmanned, on the other hand, Dungiven barracks, in a significantly Nationalist area had little, then, external protection for it’s pink facility.
    2) The effect of killing the leadership of the E. Tyrone Brigade PIRA was to push much less experienced, younger volunteers into the decision making/leadership role within E. Tyrone PIRA, the result being the unfortunate killing the next year of a local man and his grand-daughter as they attempted to reignite the Lynagh strategy in Benburb.
    The question of whether an inquiry by a state sponsored quasi-judicial authority is acceptable in determining accountability of a state force(s) has already been decided by the ECHR, Britain again found wanting

  • Brendan Gallagher

    I have just received the HET report on Friday 2nd March 2012 into the shooting dead of my brother Jim, by a British soldier at Fort George army base in Derry as he was passing along the main Strand Road as a bus passenger. The report is far from a conclusion to the true facts of what actually happened on 17th May 1976. The soldier who fired five shots killing Jim and wounding another man and a woman was sent a letter by HET asking him to co-operate with the enquiry.(quote)”The HET has written to Private Scott and asked him to meet to discuss the incident but he has not responded. Without his full co-operation, the true reason he fired will never be established” (end quote) So what does that tell us, not a lot, as they by their own admission tell us, the TRUE reason will never be established. The Army said that the soldier was a butcher by trade, I requested to see his military service record to find out whether he was a sniper or crackshot with his 7.62 SLR (self loading rifle) as I suspect Jim was targeted because he had served 4 years in prison as a republican and was released only 6 days before being killed. The other man who was shot had just sat on the seat that Jim’s friend, who was also released the same day as Jim, had got up out of. We were led to believe this enquiry had the power to question everyone involved, but when they can’t get the main player how can we get closure.