Following on from my last blog on this, I have test driven the new model, that Jeffrey recommends.
This is the one that the populace are asked to buy, by way of a “consultation”.
The draft Bill is 68 clauses long, and it has 19 schedules. It runs to 120 pages. The section on the HIU has 38 clauses and 16 schedules.
Jeffrey, is the DUP’s spokesman on victims’ issues, so we might assume that he knows what he is talking about.
Lets look at some of the things he has said in Parliament about the establishment of the HIU.
“At present, in fairness to the victims and families who have waited a long time, the proposal is that the historical investigations unit would pick up where the historical inquiries team left off in chronological order. It would be wrong to go back to the beginning and start again, leaving the people who have already waited many years having to wait even longer.”
What does the draft legislation say? Clause 8; deaths must be investigated in chronological order [unless there are exceptional circumstances] . So nul points for that statement.
“It is important that the Government now proceed with the Stormont House agreement and get on with publishing the draft legislation to give innocent victims and others the opportunity to comment on the proposals, so that at last we can begin the process of implementing what has been agreed and the focus will no longer be solely on what the state did.”
This is a consultation, not an opportunity to comment on proposals. Here is a brief summary of what that means:
(1) consultation must be at a time when proposals are still at a formative stage (2) the proposer must give sufficient reasons for any proposal to permit of intelligent consideration and response, and (3) adequate time must be given for consideration and response and (4) that the product of consultation must be conscientiously taken into account in finalising any statutory proposals.
So its not just as simple as Jeffrey would like it to be. What if citizens reject the proposal? Jeffrey asserts that it has been agreed. So is this consultation a sham and a waste of time?
“We endorse the institutions proposed under the agreement, including a new historical investigations unit that would have full police powers, and would take over the work of the PSNI’s legacy investigation branch and the responsibility for reinvestigating the unsolved murders linked to the troubles in Northern Ireland.”
“Two years ago, we reached an agreement in Stormont about the legacy issues and several new institutions were proposed, including an historical investigations unit that would have full police powers to revisit the unsolved murders. The main impact of the establishment of that unit would be that the murders committed by the terrorists would finally be subjected to proper scrutiny and reinvestigation, and the innocent victims that the hon. Member for South Down referred to would have the opportunity to have their cases re-examined to see whether there was the prospect of prosecution and people being brought to justice.”
It’s important to couple these statements, representing a bright shining JeffreyLand and compare them against reality. Here is what the Bill proposes:
Not all troubles related deaths are to be investigated. A time frame has been specified.
Only those which are currently on the books of the PSNI or the PONI will be considered. So if you relative’s case is not with either of these bodies, generally speaking you will not qualify.
Each of these bodies must certify to the HIU that the death requires further investigation. Many will not be so certified and will therefore not be investigated.
HIU is only to investigate any of these deaths it takes on if there is “new evidence”
This means evidence that PSNI/RUC or PONI or HIU did not know of or knew of but was not aware of the relationship between the evidence and the death.
But. The new evidence is to be assessed for credibility and the evidence is to be taken into account with all other relevant information.
So if the HIU thinks the evidence is weak or it is leaned upon by the Spooks , you case will also fall by the wayside.
The Shawcross test is certainly present in Clause 7, where the HIU must not do anything which might prejudice the national security interests of the UK, put at risk the life or safety of any person. This is the get-out to protect informers, who were present or participated in many of the murders.
The suggested presence of informers is a feature of many troubles murders. Some also may involve participating informants. To date these cases have not been solved because of the State’s activity in hiding these persons. The State will continue to hide them.
There seems to be no mechanism for a relative or interested person to make a fresh complaint to the HIU.
The HIU is forbidden from duplicating work. So the HIU could read the papers from the PSNI or the PONI, decide that it will not duplicate the work, that there is no new evidence and bin the case.
Let’s assume that the HIU considers that maybe there is an agent or informer or some State actor. It has no access to the Spooks’ warehouses. It has to ask for information. If you don’t know what the Spooks have got then it’s hard to ask for it. On the other hand the Spooks are under no obligation to hand over information, no matter how relevant it might be.
This could have been [partially] resolved by giving HIU unlimited access to the warehouses. How likely is that?
Worse, the Secretary of State and the Department of Justice can both make regulations limiting the use of secrets.
As a general weapon, the HIU director can bin cases under clause 9 if he feels that they will hinder the completion of his task in five years.
So, how more effective will the HIU be, compared to PSNI/LIB or PONI?
The answer is , not a lot. The Bill is State sponsored sleight of hand. All the faults of the HET , the LIB and the PONI HID are present here. Worse, the State has tightened up the control of State secrets, so informers and agents are better protected than ever. How many cases will be investigated? Nobody knows but it certainly will not be Jeffrey’s assertion that:
“the innocent victims that the hon. Member for South Down referred to would have the opportunity to have their cases re-examined to see whether there was the prospect of prosecution and people being brought to justice.”
If I were guessing the number would be in the hundreds, not thousands.
Jeffrey, as the DUP victims’ expert, is knowingly selling the same old model of car [HET/LIB/HID] , with a new paint job, a radio and go-faster stripes. It still handles badly, takes ages to get anywhere and lets you down at the vital moment.
Don’t buy it!