Below is a summary of Paper Trail’s response to the consultation, Addressing the Legacy of the Past in Northern Ireland.

Paper Trail’s project manager worked with the families of the Time for Truth Campaign which gathered nearly 15K responses to the consultation, Addressing the Legacy of the Past. Below is a summary of Paper Trail’s response to the same.

1   Do you consider that maintaining the current system for dealing with the issues of the past through legacy inquests, PSNI and OPONI investigations is the right approach, or do you think there is a need for reform?
Definite need for reform and funding as the state has failed victims and survivors and the wider community. The Stormont House Agreement should be implemented in full, and resourced properly. In the meantime, the coronial inquest system and the Office of the Police Ombudsman should be properly resourced so that they can get through the backlog until the mechanisms for dealing with the past are functioning.

Many of our families have grave concerns that PSNI is not independent to deal with any legacy cases – in fact, some believe that PSNI has had a negative and detrimental impact on dealing with the past up until now.  They believe PSNI is more interested in guarding the reputation of RUC and protecting its agents than the basic human rights and entitlements of victims and survivors.

2   Does the proposed approach help to ensure all groups of people can effectively engage with the legacy institutions?
It can only succeed if:

–  there is independence (from PSNI/RUC, political grouping etc) and it has operational discretion

–  Victim-centred and victim-led

–  It consults and supports victims and survivors at every stage

–  Complies with the European Convention on Human Rights

–  Non-partisan

–  There are no conflicts of interest

–  HIU has proper powers to investigate and prosecute; retrieve information

–  It has proper processes for complaint and appeal

–  It has proper oversight

–  Properly resourced and given enough time

–  Britain does not abuse Freedom of Information and the use of National Security

–  Britain does not hide, destroy or lose evidential information (as it continues to do)

–  Legal aid is simplified and accessible for those who need it

–  The definition of a victim stays as in the 2006 Order – there should be no hierarchy

–  There is no amnesty – everyone should be the same in the eyes of the law

–  Pensions are given immediately to the badly injured regardless of their background or context of their injury

3   Should the HIU’s remit also include deaths which took place between the signing of the Belfast Agreement on 10 April 1998 and 31 March 2004?

Yes, we would be concerned that the police’s failings regarding conflict-related deaths would be the same for this period too so relevant deaths during this time should be included.

4   Do you think that the process set out above is the right way to assess whether an investigation into a Troubles-related death has taken place or whether investigation is needed?
 

No, Paper Trail has concerns that families let down by HET, LIB, PONI and PSNI in the past and who have been given reports or so-called investigations will miss out on a proper investigation by HIU. It could be that they have been failed by these organisations and have had no proper investigation or support. How can they get referred to access the services of HIU, therefore, if they do not meet the criteria? Judicial reviews may be their only option.

Also, Paper Trail has concerns that the threshold of new evidence for a re-opening of a case could be too high and families would be excluded from the process through no fault of their own.

5   Do you think that the proposed mechanism to appeal disclosure decisions to a judge provides adequate opportunity to challenge decisions by the UK Government to protect information?
No, it is our experience that the British state, its departments and police force in the north of Ireland will do everything in their powers to stop families receiving relevant information and evidence.

Any veto that the British state has will be abused.

The court system of appeal is prohibitive to ordinary families and, again, it is our experience that it will be abused by the British state to deny access to information or delay its access.

6   Does the HIU provide a method to take forward investigations into outstanding Troubles-related deaths in a proportionate, victim-centred manner with appropriate structure and safeguards?
 

Yes, only if it adheres to the principles as led out in Q2:

–  there is independence (from PSNI/RUC, political grouping etc) and it has operational discretion

–  Victim-centred and victim-led

–  It consults and supports victims and survivors at every stage

–  Complies with the European Convention on Human Rights

–  Non-partisan

–  There are no conflicts of interest

–  HIU has proper powers to investigate and prosecute; retrieve information

–  It has proper processes for complaint and appeal

–  It has proper oversight

–  Properly resourced and given enough time

–  Britain does not abuse Freedom of Information and the use of National Security

–  Britain does not hide, destroy or lose evidential information (as it continues to do)

–  Legal aid is simplified and accessible for those who need it

–  The definition of a victim stays as in the 2006 Order – there should be no hierarchy

–  There is no amnesty – everyone should be the same in the eyes of the law

–  Pensions are given immediately to the badly injured regardless of their background or context of their injury

7   What actions could the ICIR take to support families who seek information about the death of their loved one?

–  Maintain secrecy and anonymity

–  Ensure that family engagement is voluntary

–  Provide safeguards for same

–  Provide professional family liaison officers

–  Maintain communication and updates

–  ICIR should test credibility of information robustly

–  ICIR should encourage participation of relevant information providers

–  ICIR should ensure those information providers are safeguarded

–  Process too short for ICIR – extension required

–  Problems may arise if other family members take information from ICIR and try to use it for HIU investigations or litigation

–  Problems may arise if the information is destroyed and lost when reports are made – information should be preserved safely in case it is of use later

8   Do you think the ICIR is structured correctly, with the right powers and protections, in a way that provides victims and survivors with the chance to seek and receive information about the deaths of their loved ones?
No. Problems evident in the relationship between HIU and ICIR – some families may wish to avail of one or the other but information from ICIR could be handed over to investigators and prosecutors – therefore there is little incentive for former combatants to share information.

9   Do you think that the Oral History Archive proposals provide an appropriate method for people from all backgrounds to share their experiences of the Troubles in order to create a valuable resource for future generations?
Again, yes, if set up and managed correctly – nevertheless, the draft has a lack of detail as to how it will be run. But, if managed as proposed, it will:

–  have geographic reach across GB and Ireland

–  include other records

–  include other oral history projects

–  include confidential oral history records (that can be used when the person dies etc)

–  Be properly funded and can run for many years

–  Should be independent from governmental, organisational and political interference

10   What steps could be taken to ensure that people who want to share their experiences of the Troubles know about the Archive and are encouraged to record their stories?

Imperative that:

–  there is proper funding

–  the stories received are credible

–  stories are supported by other records if possible

–  there is informed consent

–  voluntary

–  widely promoted/promoted by relevant means

–  local community groups are used to support the work as people may not trust strangers

–  proper protections are in place for people to share stories confidentially

 

11   Do you think that the ESRC should be engaged to commission the academic work on patterns and themes to ensure independence, impartiality and best practice in academic research?

Any means of oversight/cooperation to ensure the independence for the IRG’s output should be examined and included. Again, independence and impartiality will be essential at every level.

 

12   Do you think the IRG is appropriately structured to allow it to review the work of the legacy institutions, to commission an independent academic report and promote reconciliation?
We need to ensure the independence and professionalism of the academic research at every level. Some families have reservations as to whether academia did this during the conflict so may not expect that it is able to do it now.

–  Furthermore, the potential for political interference and Unionist veto is evident

–  Robust and independent oversight is essential therefore

13   Do you think that the package of measures proposed by the Stormont House Agreement provides an appropriately balanced and planned way to move Northern Ireland forward that can command the confidence of the community?

Yes – but this is dependent on the above: It will succeed if:

–  there is independence (from PSNI/RUC, political grouping etc) and it has operational discretion

–  Victim-centred and victim-led

–  It consults and supports victims and survivors at every stage

–  Complies with the European Convention on Human Rights

–  Non-partisan

–  There are no conflicts of interest

–  HIU has proper powers to investigate and prosecute; retrieve information

–  It has proper processes for complaint and appeal

–  It has proper oversight

–  Properly resourced and given enough time

–  Britain does not abuse Freedom of Information and the use of National Security

–  Britain does not hide, destroy or lose evidential information (as it continues to do)

–  Legal aid is simplified and accessible for those who need it

–  The definition of a victim stays as in the 2006 Order – there should be no hierarchy

–  There is no amnesty – everyone should be the same in the eyes of the law

–  Pensions are given immediately to the badly injured regardless of their background or context of their injury

 

 

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