A Banbridge solicitor who represents some of the victims of the Troubles has defended the work of the Historical Enquiries Team.
A report which criticised the HET was published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary last week. The report claimed the HET was ‘inconsistent’, had ‘serious shortcomings’ and its investigators “were not rigorous enough in their questioning of members of the security forces”.
PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott issued an apology over the findings, while the Policing Board declared it had “no confidence in the leadership of the Historical Enquiries Team”.
All reviews of military cases have been suspended. The process of all other reviews will continue but none will be finalised until all the necessary reforms are introduced.
Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly said the reported “deferential approach to British Army killings is an affront to families”.
Victims’ campaigner William Frazer also slammed the work of the HET as “dissatisfactory to victims”, adding that out of 100 families he has worked with who received a HET report, none were impressed.
However, John McBurney, who represents the family of murdered RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen, murdered in an IRA ambush in 1989, said the HET does important work and it is essential that it remains.
He emphasised the huge number of cases that the HET has been tasked to look at – 3,269 unsolved murders .
“The scale of their efforts is staggering and they are to be commended for the diligence of their endeavours over quite a period of time, and it must be remembered that the main thrust and purpose of the HET is victim-led and if further inquiries arise out of their reports as a result of these endeavours that is very much a bonus but that is not the main focus,” he said.
“The main focus is to glean as much information for victims as it is possible to uncover. I believe they acquit themselves well in that task – it is a crucially important job of work for all of the many victims.
“It will never be a council of perfection because of the passage of time. The enormity of the task and the complications that are so regularly thrown up in the process – but it is a worthy effort nevertheless.”