With just days to go before the general election, a number of prominent organisations have challenged all Westminster candidates to publicly reject a proposed “quasi-judicial” investigative process specifically targeting former RUC officers.
In an open letter published in Saturday’s News Letter (December 7, see link below), the various bodies supporting police and military veterans said the government’s legacy plans undermine the principals of justice – and pave the way for a “witch hunt” without a sound legal basis.
The signatories include the NI Retired Police Officers’ Association, the RUC GC Association and the South East Fermanagh Foundation.
The main concerns are centred on a new Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) with full police powers, and the creation of a new class of investigations into what has been termed ‘non criminal police misconduct’ (NCPM).
Many former police officers have been angered by what they see as an attempt to create what they deem a quasi-judicial definition of ‘collusion’ – previously dismissed by the Police Federation as something which “isn’t even a crime and for which there is no definition”.
Among other concerns, the fifteen signatories believe the HIU proposals will “create false expectations of long-delayed justice” for victims, undermine the established rule of law and will “facilitate a huge and expensive exercise in scapegoating” those who worked to protect the community, while ignoring the terrorist atrocities.
There had been long-standing concern, including among contributors to the News Letter Legacy Scandal series of essays, that the DUP had not taken a tough enough line in opposing the new proposals.
However, speaking at the DUP’s manifesto launch last week, party leader Arlene Foster moved to allay fears. In her party’s hardest-hitting rejection to date of aspects of the legacy plan, Mrs Foster said the main focus should be on those who killed 90% of the Troubles victims – and on getting truth and justice for those victims’ families.”
In response, Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie said: “Having finally woken up to the injustice inherent in the charge of non criminal police misconduct, they must go further and withdraw support for the HIU now, and tell the electorate that any DUP MPs will go to Westminster and vote against the HIU in its entirety.”
The open letter published on Saturday concludes: “Candidates and all political parties — where do you stand? Are you for justice or are you for continuing the witch hunt?”
• The sixteen signatories:
County Armagh Phoenix Group (Police, Military and Prison Officers Support)
Decorum NI (Police, Armed Forces, Prison Service and Families Support)
Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (FAIR)
Innocent Victims United (An umbrella organisation for 23 support groups, supporting in excess of 11,500 individual victims/survivors)
Mourne Action for Survivors of Terrorism (MAST)
Mid-Ulster Victims Empowerment Project (MUVE)
Northern Ireland Retired Police Officers Association (NIRPOA)
Northern Ireland Retired Prison Officers Fellowship
Northern Ireland Prison Service Central Benevolent Fund
Out of the Shadows Group
RUC GC Association
RUC GC Parents’ Association
South East Fermanagh Foundation
South and East Tyrone Welfare Support Group (Police, Military and Prison Officers Support)
Ulster Human Rights Watch
Wounded Police & Families Association