Ulster Unionists oppose ‘parallel’ police body

Doug Beattie said the HIU would ignore thousands of Troubles victims
Doug Beattie said the HIU would ignore thousands of Troubles victims

The Ulster Unionists will not support the new body set up to investigate Troubles-related deaths as it “will ignore the majority of terrorist victims,” Doug Beattie has said.

Mr Beattie said the £150 million needed to fund the Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) would be better spent resourcing the legacy work being carried out by the PSNI, rather than creating a “parallel” police force.

“The HIU has been designed to investigate only 1,700 fatalities and 30% of this caseload will be the reinvestigation of every killing by the military and many by the RUC,” he said.

“It will not investigate any of the tens of thousands of victims which were not fatalities – the vast majority at the hands of terrorists – including over 6,000 military personnel.

“The HIU will ignore families that have had a flawed Historical Enquiries Team (HET) desktop review apart from those which were conducted in respect to killings where the military was involved. These will, en masse, be part of the HIU caseload and reinvestigated.”

The Upper Bann MLA and former Army captain added: “The HIU will allow former RUC officers to be interviewed under caution for ‘non-criminal misconduct’. It will create a second police force for Northern Ireland working in parallel to the PSNI and it will be able to compel the UK government to supply all information for investigation unredacted, whilst the Irish government will be able to redact information prior to investigation.

“All I ask for is balance, proportionality, fairness and transparency.”

Last month it was announced that a former soldier would be charged with manslaughter by gross negligence over the 1988 death of Aidan McAnespie at an Army checkpoint in Aughnacloy.

The 23-year-old was struck by a bullet from a machine gun located in a security post as he walked to a gaelic football match.

Earlier this year the Public Prosecution Service also recommended that two members of the Parachute Regiment face murder charges in relation to the death of Official IRA man Joe McCann in Belfast in 1972 – while former Life Guard Dennis Hutchings is being prosecuted over the death of a man close to Benburb in 1974.

Mr Beattie said the DUP’s support for a statute of limitations that would protect soldiers, and possibly police officers, from prosecution after a number of years had lapsed, was misguided.

“The Ulster Unionist Party will not support a HIU that will ignore the majority of terrorist victims, or a statute of limitations – however well intentioned – that will create an amnesty for those same terrorists and give them equivalence with those who stood between the terrorists and the terrorised.”

In May this year, the DUP’s Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he supported a statute of limitations for soldiers, provided there were protections in place to prevent an “unacceptable” amnesty for terrorists.

A public consultation on how Troubles’ legacy crimes are dealt with is currently taking place and will run until September 10.