Northern Ireland

HMIC concern over accountability of PSNI's Legacy Investigations Branch

PSNI
Image caption The Legacy Investigations Branch is fully integrated into the PSNI

The body that oversees police services across the UK say they are concerned about the accountability of the PSNI's new Legacy Investigations Branch.

Two years ago, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) compiled a highly critical report about what then known as the Historical Enquiries Team (HET).

Now, they have said not enough had been done to implement its recommendations.

The chief constable said there were still some areas that needed work.

HMIC say seven of their 20 recommendations have not been implemented at all, mainly around trust and transparency.

Responsibility for reviewing investigations into killings during the Troubles has transferred from the arms-length Historical Enquiries Team (HET) to the Legacy Investigations Branch which is fully integrated into the PSNI.

Inspector of Constabulary Michael Cunningham has said that has brought benefits in terms of making a more efficient, standardised system.

Vetting

However, he also says it makes accountability even more important.

"The fact that it is an integral part of the Police Service of Northern Ireland does cause a problem for some sections of the community, around independence, around accountability, and around transparency," he said.

"And we believe that those issues around independence remain issues that need addressing."

The Inspectorate believe the three key issues which need to be rectified are the vetting of staff to ensure independence, the management of intelligence, and openness and accountability.

The PSNI say work on those issues will begin in the coming weeks.

Chief Constable George Hamilton said there were still some areas that needed work.

Perception

"Over the coming days and weeks, we'll work on that - we have no intention to be obstructive," he said.

"We acknowledge the public confidence issues, the fall out of legacy investigations and of course we want to be seen and we want to do everything possible to promote public confidence in our ability to deal with the past."

He added that while he understood that for some people, the perception of independence would only become a reality when dealing with the past through a body that sits outside the PSNI, "this is an issue that only our legislators can solve".

A historical investigations unit, independent of the police, was proposed in the Stormont House Agreement, but the stalemate of the issue of Welfare Reform has stalled the implementation of the unit, among other proposals.

More on this story