North’s killings probe in 2016

An independent investigation into Troubles’ killings in the North is expected to go ahead next year, a senior department of justice official claimed.

A unit dedicated to probing almost 1,000 unsolved “cold cases” from the 30-year conflict and bringing “closure” to victims is due to be set up under the stalled pre-Christmas accord between five local parties along with the British and Irish governments.

But there is political impasse at Stormont, and the Conservative manifesto ahead of the last election said there would be no side deals — the agreement was a package and if one part fell then all of it unravelled.

However, the justice department’s Brian Grzymek said it was his expectation from conversations with the UK government that the independent Historical Investigations Unit would be proceeded with.

“The Government itself will be bringing the (Stormont House Agreement) bill through the parliament and the government’s perception, as I understand it, is that there has been a great deal of work put into this and it does discharge one responsibility of government.”

A team of 200 is due to be established by autumn next year, barring a political intervention, and will have full police powers to investigate offences, he said.

However, the evidence may not be enough to secure prosecutions in many cases and the probe could take more than the envisaged five years to complete, the Stormont civil servant charged with establishing the new unit said.

Mr Grzymek said that he hoped victims could achieve closure but warned against expectations of large numbers of convictions.

Much of the DNA evidence from years of violence and turmoil may have been contaminated; sometimes officers attended two murders a day or just put evidence together in a drawer rather than carefully packaging it separately, he added.

Matters which could be transferred to the HIU include the 1972 Bloody Sunday shooting dead of 13 civil rights protesters by soldiers.

The HIU was conceived in the political agreement which has been stalled by political wrangling.


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