Troubles legacy cases bias disputed by figures

By Vincent Kearney
BBC News NI Home Affairs Correspondent

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Figures obtained by the BBC challenge claims that investigations into Troubles killings are unduly focused on those committed by the Army.

The DUP says up to 90% of the PSNI legacy investigation branch's caseload is focused on killings by the Army.

The PM, secretary of state and other unionist and Conservative politicians also say there is an imbalance.

But PSNI figures show investigations into killings by the Army account for about 30% of its legacy workload.

image copyrightPACEMAKER
image captionThe PSNI's legacy branch is investigating 354 killings by the security forces

The police legacy branch will re-investigate 1,188 deaths not previously reviewed or completed by the now defunct Historical Enquiries Team (HET).

Of those killings, 530 were carried out by republicans, 271 by loyalists and 354 by the security forces.

It is not known who was responsible for the other 33 killings.

There are 55 detectives in the legacy branch, divided into four teams

Team A consists of 12 detectives

They are working on On The Runs (OTR) enquiry and are seeking to confirm the "wanted" status of 228 republicans, not all of whom received OTR letters.

The number of incidents the individuals are linked to may run to several thousand.

The team is examining whether there is evidence that would provide grounds for them to be prosecuted.

Team B consists of 19 detectives

Its caseload includes investigations into the killings of Jean McConville and former IRA member Eamon Collins, both attributed to republicans.

The team is also investigating the activities of the Military Reaction Force (MRF).

Team C consists of 13 detectives

They are investigating the killings of 13 civilians by members of the Parachute Regiment on Bloody Sunday, and the murders of 10 Protestant men by the IRA at Kingsmills in 1976.

Team D consists of 11 detectives

It is investigating seven killings by republicans.

image captionACC Hamilton said he appreciated there was a public perception that there was a disproportionate focus on military cases

The officer who leads the PSNI legacy branch, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, said he did not believe the police were disproportionately focusing on any one group.

"I do understand that there is a public perception that there is a disproportionate focus on military cases but they form part of what we are doing," he said.

"I have a full team who are doing reviews against a list of cases, at the minute, none of those are military.

"I've a full team working on the On The Runs review and that doesn't relate to the military at all.

"I do appreciate that in the public domain, the big profile cases that we've been working on have been in the area of military-related killings.

"We're carrying out our duties according to the law and according to what we've been asked to do and required to do."

The HET previously completed reviews of 1,625 cases, which related to 2,051 deaths.

The majority of the cases, 1,038, were attributed to republican paramilitaries, mostly the Provisional IRA.

Of the others, 536 cases were attributed to loyalists, 32 to the army, and it's not known who was responsible for the remaining 9.

There are no plans to re-investigate cases described as completed by the HET at this stage unless new evidence is uncovered.

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