Northern Ireland Legacy Investigations

Background

The current Northern Ireland legacy investigations commenced as a result of the Stormont House Agreement between the UK government and the government of the Republic of Ireland. In the agreement the Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) was set up to take forward investigations into outstanding Troubles-related deaths. (The "Troubles" ended in 1998 under the Good Friday Agreement).

The most recent reincarnation of the HIU is the Legacy Investigation Branch (LIB). The following is an extract from the website of the Police Service of Northern Ireland:

"Between 1 January 1969 and 1 March 2004, there were more than 3,200 homicides in Northern Ireland. The review of these cases and where credible evidence exists, the further investigation of them, is the responsibility of LIB. The cases are managed and progressed by detectives using a Case Sequencing Model which takes a number of factors into consideration".

Recent Developments

So far, there have been issues obtaining funding for the investigations by the UK government, to the criticism of many Republicans and Catholic families and a senior Northern Ireland judge. A UK government spokesperson responded, with the intent of displaying government commitment saying "This Government is fully committed to implementing legacy bodies in the Stormont House Agreement which will ensure a more fair, balanced and proportionate way of addressing the issues of Northern Ireland's past".

Inquests and Prosecutions

An inquest is a legal investigation to establish the circumstances surrounding a person's death, including how, when and why the death occurred. Unlike criminal trials, inquests tend not to try to establish whether anyone was responsible for a person's death. Please see the Inquests section on this website to get more information as to how these inquests will operate and the potential consequences. At the beginning of 2017, it was understood that there were over 50 stalled inquests yet to be heard relating to fatalities during the Troubles

The following is an extract from the UK Parliament website regarding Dennis Hutchings, a veteran in his 70s who is currently facing trial for a fatal shooting in 1974:

"Following the attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham in 1974, Mr Dennis Hutchings, who was serving in The Life Guards, was subject to an investigation by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the Director of Public Prosecutions. No charges were brought but Mr Hutchings was investigated again in 2011 by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET). He was told then, that no further action would be taken. Despite this, in 2015 the LIB reopened the case. Mr Hutchings, who is now in his 70s, was arrested during a dawn raid, and in June 2017, it was announced that the evidence was sufficient to justify putting Mr Hutchings on trial for attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham. Mr Hutchings was due to be formally charged on 30 June 2017 but the hearing was delayed until September due to Mr Hutchings ill-health".

The UK Parliament website also includes the following information - "In 2016, the Public Prosecution Service announced that it would be prosecuting two retired soldiers from The Parachute Regiment, for the death of IRA Commander John McCann in 1972".

The future of the investigations remains uncertain. Continued requests for more funding from Westminster, both from legal officials and from civilian families, have been rebutted by the government, who would only release the funds when "there is a political agreement on how to deal with the past." No further inquests have been brought up since Dennis Hutchings.

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmdfence/1064/106402.htm