Suspension of PSNI Legacy Investigation Branch ‘sad consequence of Covid-19’

Ulster Human Rights Watch (UHRW) recognises that the decision by the Chief Constable to suspend the work of the PSNI Legacy Investigation Branch (LIB) is a sad consequence of the Covid-19 crisis.

The human rights organisation, which champions the cause of innocent victims of terrorism, also recognises that placing the investigations in ‘cold storage’ will inevitably and understandably cause dismay and upset amongst its clients.

UHRW Advocacy Support Manager, Axel Schmidt, said: “We understand that the PSNI will redeploy officers from the LIB to other areas of the organisation to provide effective policing cover during this health crisis of monumental proportions.

“In announcing the suspension the Chief Constable has given the assurance that the move is a temporary suspension and we must hope that the people redeployed to policing the present will not have long to wait before they can return to the very important work of policing the past.

“Innocent victims of terrorism, from whatever source, have already waited too long for information about the circumstances that led to the needless murders of their loved ones and the injuries they themselves sustained in terrorist attacks and whenever possible the pursuit of justice. It is inevitable that this delay will exacerbate their dilemma even further.

“The UHRW Advocacy Service supports the work carried out by the LIB, since its procedures have been reviewed in accordance with the recommendations issued by Her Majesty‘s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) in compliance with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. We also value the professional service LIB provides and therefore we must insist that suspension of the Legacy Investigation Branch will not turn out to be suppression.

Clearly, suspending the caseload was a decision that wasn’t taken lightly by the Chief Constable and we would seek his reassurance that the work will resume as soon as this lethal disease has been successfully tackled.”

Covid-19 Service Notice

In line with Government policy on Covid-19, Ulster Human Rights Watch (UHRW) is postponing their Victims of Terrorism Council (VTC) meeting planned for 26 March 2020 and advise its clients when it will be rescheduled.

However, victims will continue to be supported by UHRW during the health crisis. These measures are being put in place to protect victims, many of whom already suffer from health issues as a result of the ‘Troubles’

Axel Schmidt, UHRW Advocacy Manager said “During these unprecedented times, it is vital that we observe Government policy in an effort to reduce the spread of Covid-19. While we cannot visit our clients, I wish to assure them that we are at the end of the phone if they require any assistance.”

Although individual visits to victims’ homes and meetings at UHRW offices in Brownlow House, Lurgan, are temporarily suspended, UHRW will still offer advocacy and support services to those who need it.

UHRW will still represent victims and keep in touch by phone on 028 3834 4500, text, email, mail and twitter. Any updates will be posted on the UHRW website.

UHRW Conference hailed as success

UHRW held its strategic planning conference at Brownlow House on Thursday 27 February 2020, to support development of a client led work plan for the advocacy service until 2023. This event, hosted by Ray Hayden, considered points raised at a previous meeting, alongside reports on current work by Jonathan Larner, and the forthright rejection by UHRW of the legacy bodies proposed under the Stormont House Agreement by Axel Schmidt.

Further sessions were held under the titles of restitution for the past, recording the past, remembering the past, and reinvestigating the past. These were a presentation on the upcoming payment scheme for seriously injured, by Advocacy Manager Axel Schmidt, highlighting characteristics of the scheme, the exclusion clauses for terrorists, and our work with the NIO in the consultation process.

After lunch an overview of the work of PRONI and our Legacy of the Past Record project was delivered by Wesley Geddis of PRONI, with a personal testimony of loss by victim of IRA terrorism Mary McCurrie. We are very thankful to Charlie Bennett for an informative presentation on the Ulster Defence Regiment, in which the sacrifices of the UDR for the cause of peace were remembered.

The event closed with D/Supt. Stephen Wright of Legacy Investigation Branch explaining the activities and processes of LIB and fielding a range of questions from delegates. We are thankful to all who took part and were present to make the event a success.

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