Baggott plays waiting game on collusion, shoot-to-kill

Victims of state killings and collusion have expressed suspicion at plans to shut down a specialist police unit set up to investigate unsolved killings from the conflict.

Last week, the PSNI chief Matt Baggott said the unit, which is staffed by policemen from British forces, would be shut down in less than three years, and claimed he had insufficient funds for the effort.

But he hailed the achievements of the team to date, which include the exposure of murderous collusion between the PSNI (formerly RUC) and the unionist paramilitary UVF in north Belfast.

In an Orwellian response to journalist questions over the potential for continuing cover-ups of state killings, Mr Baggott said there “had to be a point when a line is drawn”.

“My personal view is I want to set a three-year timescale within which we will have resolved as far as we can the outstanding Investigations,” he said.

“We will have dealt with and helped victims to move on and we will absolutely then be in a position to stop looking back and start looking forward.”

The HET had come under pressure from unionist paramilitaries recently following a string of arrests of members of the UVF’s Mount Vernon gang in north Belfast.

Senior loyalist leader William ‘Plum’ Smith claimed the authorities were breaching an amnesty unionist paramilitaries had struck with the British government during the peace process that those involved in offences pre-1998 would not be pursued.

The status of republicans ‘on the run’ from prosecutions dating from before 1998 also remains unclear.

Mr Baggott said last week the notion of an amnesty was “news to me”.

SDLP Policing Board member Alex Attwood said there was “absolutely no way” the cases to be reviewed by HET could possibly be completed before the three year cut-off.

“I think it is a bad move to be putting time limits on this because victims and survivors want truth and accountability and that should not be subject to time limits.

“I also do not think the Chief Constable has kept the [Policing Board] fully in the loop about this,” he said.

Victims’ Commissioner Patricia McBride, whose brother was an IRA member killed in the conflict, asked what would happen if three years did not prove to be enough time.

“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.

Meanwhile, Baggott has today [Monday] won legal permission to challenge a senior coroner’s direction to hand over redacted copies of secret reports into shoot-to-kill cases in the North.

A High Court judge granted leave on Monday to seek a judicial review of John Leckey’s order for censored versions of the probes into a series of police killings and assassinations 28 years ago.

The move is expected to further delay the decades-old bid for justice in the cases, which will now proceed to a full judicial review hearing in May.

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