Newsletter Legacy Platform
By Mark Lindsay Chair, Police Federation for Northern Ireland
This consultation amounts to an assault on the names, reputations and standing of the men and women who stood against republican and loyalist terrorism.
In short, it contains proposals which, if implemented, are heavily biased against the police officers who, at great personal cost, created the environment for peace.
The proposals are seriously flawed and serve only to re-write the past, turn facts on their head and apply a veneer or gloss over some of the most atrocious crimes perpetrated by terrorists fuelled by hatred.
The ‘police family’ of serving and former officers is appalled at the Government’s direction of travel. By engaging in an extensive consultation on legacy, it is opening the door to bitter and implacable opponents of justice and the officers who held the line.
Alive or dead, serving or former, these proposals will result in officers being trailed through the most monstrous ‘circus’ where their good names and reputations will be shredded. The sad truth is that these proposals will fail to deliver justice and closure to families, who will be given false expectation that by laying the blame at the feet of police officers, they will get closure or convictions. It will simply fuel a legal industry feeding off the never-ending Legal Aid gravy-train, with former officers being vilified for dong their best in unprecedented circumstances.
We simply ask for the principles of justice, which have evolved over hundreds of years, to apply equally to all. We oppose amnesty in any form.
A crime is a crime and given that terrorists were responsible for 90% of all deaths during the Troubles, we fail to see any semblance of justice in proposals which have the potential to pursue police officers disproportionately. It should not be lost on society that 100% of all deaths caused by terrorists were murder. Any proposed legacy institutions would do well not to lose sight of that fact.
We don’t believe that a proposed parallel police service called a Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) is the correct approach. If crimes have been committed, then the PSNI ought to do the investigating and whilst the PSNI are not currently funded or structured to deal with vast legacy investigations, we believe that the skillset to investigate murder is best held by police officers.
The proposed legislation mentions a new and highly dangerous catch-all called ‘non-criminal police misconduct’. This means serving, retired or deceased officers can be held retrospectively liable for matters which are not even deemed to be a crime. ‘Non-criminal police misconduct’ will become the new ‘collusion’ which currently sits outside the law. All of this in the context that mass murderers were released from prison or given amnesty. No right-minded person could fail to see the hypocrisy in that.
It is essential that an adequate legal fund is created to create the level playing field, where an officer can obtain professional legal representation to counter spurious and malicious claims.
Under the proposals, it is entirely feasible that a retired officer is put under the spotlight by HIU. The officer confronts a fully funded legal assault on his or her good name. Who funds that retired officer to see off that legal attack? He or she is left on their own with no mechanism to mount a legal defence.
We contend that that is unbalanced and wrong. The bias favours the terrorist with officers cast adrift and left vulnerable and isolated. It is a denial basic human rights and equality and should be ditched.
Similarly, proposals for an independent Commission on Informational Retrieval and an Oral History Archive won’t work. If officers are prevented for legal and security reasons from telling their stories, how then can you get truth, balance and objectivity? They are sure to favour a narrative which is deeply hostile to police and which has been embellished by years of story telling and myth driven by political agenda.
This Consultation would benefit from a little perspective. Terrorists killed 3,251 people. Police officers were responsible for 1%, or 51 deaths, almost all of them lawful killings. That hasn’t prevented opponents orchestrating a vicious campaign against those who served in the RUC GC and worked tirelessly to thwart the bomber and gunman.
We do not want a line drawn in the sand, and we most assuredly do not want to see the brave actions of our officers equated with those who brought so much heartache and misery to innocent people, including the families of our 302 officers who were murdered and the thousands who were maimed and left with life-changing physical and psychological conditions.
Those, and thousands of other officers, delivered the peace we enjoy today. They deserve better than this shambolic and disgraceful attempt to re-write history.