Group's concern over new 'one-stop shop' Troubles probe body

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​Legislation designed to end Troubles-related prosecutions could become a “one-stop shop” for a whole range of historical re-investigations, a Belfast-based think tank has warned.

​The Malone House Group (MHG), which was formed to explore the best means to address the legacy of the Troubles, said its members have “grave concerns” that the Legacy Bill will “grow beyond its intended functions”.

In a statement, the MHG said: "The long title of the Bill speaks of ‘limiting criminal investigations,’ yet only last week the NIO minister, Lord Caine, proposed an amendment adding a criminal investigation role to ICRIR (Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery ), the new inquiries body.

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“He stated, ‘In light of ongoing views that have been raised, I have tabled an amendment to make clear that the Commissioner for Investigations must decide whether a criminal investigation should form part of a review in any case that is considered by the commission.’

“In this way, we are heading back to where we started with ICRIR just becoming a one-stop shop for all existing forms of re-investigation, be they by the PSNI Legacy Investigation Branch, coroners inquests or the police ombudsman.”

The MHG also said they are relieved that the government has belated realised it had forgotten to add the police ombudsman to the Bill and is going to amend that omission on Tuesday.

“At last week's Lords Committee, Lord Caine turned down all amendments designed to limit and restrict ICRIR in terms of its growing powers and the protection of individual police and army personnel if reported on for 'historic misconduct'.

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“Lord Caine, despite an eloquent and empathetic speech on the sacrifice of the 300 RUC dead officers, could not accept even one amendment going in the other direction – not even that by Lord Rogan on allowing ex-PSNI and RUC to be employed by ICRIR.

Jeff Dudgeon - convenor of the Malone House GroupJeff Dudgeon - convenor of the Malone House Group
Jeff Dudgeon - convenor of the Malone House Group

“Instead, there was a pincer movement by supporters of Jon Boutcher of Kenova and two ex-Met police chiefs to try and get [Mr Boutchers’] inquiries to continue, indeed to expand to cover all Troubles deaths.”