Leading "Irish News" columnist, Brian Feeney, asks why the most senior police officer in Northern Ireland is defying a court order and refusing to even talk about completing a report on collusion into 120+ murders? 

George Hamilton: refusing to act on High Court judgement

There’s a distinctly unpleasant whiff beginning to rise from the PSNI.

Yes, there are various surveys and polls indicating levels of satisfaction that the unlamented, discredited RUC could never have attained but there is growing dissatisfaction with critical aspects of policing and no sign they will be addressed.

People living in mixed districts and some Nationalist districts are deeply unhappy with the failure of the police to deal with loyalist flags and paraphernalia. The police have completely failed to deal with loyalist paramilitaries who still despoil working-class Unionist districts, prey on businesses and prevent investment. The PSNI record on recruiting Catholics has stalled and gone into reverse. There’s more. The reasons and excuses provided are well known but the results never change.

The major aspect which has crystallised dissatisfaction in recent months is failure to deal with the past in ways which obstruct dealing with the past. On December 15,  we had a lengthy self-serving epistle from the chief constable explaining why he is going to appeal a High Court order commanding him and his force ‘to expeditiously honour its enforceable public commitment to provide an overarching report into the Glenanne group of cases’. This to be done independently, expeditiously and with ring-fenced funding.

The reason Mr. Justice Treacy issued such an order is that on July 28 he quashed the PSNI decision to abandon the HET inquiry into the notorious Glenanne-based police/UDR murder gang and ordered an independent investigation. However by November the court found that the PSNI had ignored the court’s instruction; had done precisely nothing. Now the Chief Constable, still having done precisely nothing, is appealing the order to the Court of Appeal with your money. He has no hope of overturning the order but will appeal on esoteric legal grounds. Another year’s delay.

In his letter explaining why he has not complied with the order but is appealing,  the Chief Constable cites cost. He has conjured a figure of £60 million over five years out of misty Hy-Brasil. The Glenanne cases involve the killing of 120 or more people in the 1970s by a gang composed of RUC, UDR, and UVF. Most had dual membership. The HET was tasked with examining 2,555 cases involving 3,260 killings. The North’s Criminal Justice Inspection team found in 2013 that the total cost of the HET was £60 million.

How come the disparity? How could investigating the Glenanne gang cost so much? Their names are well known. All you have to do is pick up Anne Cadwallader’s book, Lethal Allies and you will find the gang’s whole modus operandi, their weapons, their scenes of crime. It’s a textbook for anyone pursuing an inquiry. Cadwallader makes a credible case without being paid £60 million.

Chief Constable George Hamilton asserts in his letter that there are ‘insufficient detective resources’ in the UK for carrying out an independent investigation. Rubbish. Pull the other one. The HET was able to set up and get under way using retired detectives. They successfully completed dozens of cases, few as straightforward as the pre-prepared treasure trove sitting waiting for Glenanne investigators.

The chief constable asserts that the Historical Investigation Unit recommended in the Stormont House Agreement is the body to investigate the Glenanne gang. It isn’t. That’s just kicking the can down the road. Mr. Justice Treacy ordered an independent, ring-fenced body. So the non-existence of the HIU is a red herring.

Mr. Hamilton also takes a swing at ‘the continuing political vacuum’ as a reason for not proceeding. No. Our useless invisible proconsul [James Brokenshire, NI Secretary of State] could allocate targeted funds for the past immediately. Has Hamilton asked him?

Unfortunately the Glenanne case is simply the most egregious example of the PSNI stalling, blocking, redacting, asking for Public Immunity Certificates, losing evidence and so on. Although Hamilton denies it, the inescapable conclusion is that the PSNI is preventing truth emerging but searching for delays and pretexts to protect State interests.

Regardless of motive the result plays to the political position of Unionism, not, altogether now, ‘the political vacuum’. It’s unionists and our proconsul who don’t want appalling conspiracies like the Glenanne RUC/UDR/UVF murder gang investigated. The consistent failure of the PSNI to proceed proactively supports that position. It smells fishy.