Page last updated at 15:23 GMT, Tuesday, 30 March 2010 16:23 UK

HET needs funding help - Baggott

Dave Cox and Philip James of the HET
The HET was set up to re-examine murders of the Troubles

The chief constable, Matt Baggott, has said he will be seeking extra resources from Stormont to enable the Historical Enquiries Team to progress its work.

Mr Baggott said he wanted to extend the life of HET in order to tackle the volume of cases.

"My ambition is to keep it going for another three years because that's what victims want and are entitled to.

"I will be looking to ensure we can sustain this, which will be an issue for the devolved administration."

However a Victims' Commissioner has criticised the chief constable over plans to disband the HET.

But Mr Baggott said a line has to be drawn under the work of the HET within the next three years.

Victims' Commissioner Patricia MacBride said that is unacceptable and she is now seeking a meeting with the chief constable.

SDLP MLA Alex Attwood has also criticised the move, but the DUP's Ian Paisley Junior has supported it.

Ms MacBride said her "biggest concern" was Mr Baggott's statement that it was hoped to have resolved "as far as we can" the outstanding investigations.

"So does that mean after three years we are just going to stop and whatever hasn't been done won't be done?" she said.

"The first thing I did, when I got into my office, was to contact the chief constable's office and request an urgent meeting."

'Artificial deadline'

The specialist police team was set up in 2005 to re-examine 3,269 murders from the Troubles.

It was estimated that the team would need six years to complete the task. However, work has yet to begin on more than 1,300 cases.

Professor Monica McWilliams of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission said there should be no "artificial deadline" imposed on the process of investigations "which would be unfair to the families of the victims and would reduce the standard of protection for human rights".

Mr Attwood, who was a member of the policing board when the HET was established, said he was surprised the chief constable had made the announcement without consulting the board.

"I think on an issue like dealing with the past, given the sensitivity, given the very good work that the UUP and DUP did with the SDLP and the police in bringing about the formation of the HET, I think there was a better way for this sort of announcement to be made," he said.

Mr Attwood also voiced concern that the team's work could be completed within three years and objected to an "arbitrary time frame" being established to deal with issues of the past.

'Oversight'

Board member Ian Paisley Junior, said the chief constable had an operational requirement to manage the police services and the board had an operational responsibility to "hold him to account, not to tell him what to do".

"He is setting a target which is in line with what the policing board asked him to do which is to clear historical cases by 2013," he said.

"So I really don't know what all the excitement is about, because the chief constable has been told that money is not infinite, it is finite."

Mr Baggott said there had to be a point when a line was drawn under historic investigations so police could focus resources on the present and future.

Last year, one of the team's highest profile case files, involving allegations of collusion between a loyalist murder gang and the police in north Belfast, was expanded and moved back under the remit of the PSNI.

In an interview with the Press Association, Mr Baggott responded to criticism from victims' relatives who were unhappy with PSNI detectives investigating cases involving alleged collusion.

He said the move was necessary to cope with the scale of the operation and that the various oversight bodies would ensure impartiality.

"I am full of praise for the Historical Enquiries Team and quite understand the concerns of victims that they want to see success, and so do I," he said.

"But the best place to do that now is to move some of these complex investigations back into the remit of the PSNI with the right oversight."



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