PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton says his detectives will pursue the killers of Kevin McGuigan “no matter what the political consequences.
He was speaking this afternoon at the September monthly meeting of the Policing Board being held at is headquarters in Belfast.
Last month the Chief Constable said that Provisional IRA members were involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan who was shot dead at his Comber Court home in the Short Strand by two gunmen.
He said the PIRA members were acting in conjunction with a self-styled group calling themselves Action Against Drugs (AAD), a rag-tag group of criminals and dissident republican elements.
The Chief Constable said today: “I am aware that this Board meeting takes place amid significant public and political debate. I am also conscious that there are grieving families at the heart of this debate; and there are ongoing murder investigations that I will not jeopardise by unnecessary public commentary or speculation
“As Chief Constable I have operational responsibility for policing in Northern Ireland. While I will always be mindful of political comment or consequences, neither I, nor the Police Service will ever be influenced or fettered by it.
“The investigations into the murders of Kevin McGuigan and Gerard Davison are being conducted with integrity and professionalism.
“Investigators will go where the evidence takes them, no matter what the political consequences.
“All public commentary that we have made to date in relation to these investigations, we have done so based on sound investigative purpose. We will continue to do that without fear or favour.
“What I will not do; is take my role beyond my legislative responsibilities of preventing harm, protecting people and bringing offenders to justice.
“The monitoring of paramilitary groups, as conducted by the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) up until 2011 was part of a political agreement.
“While it is a decision for others to make, the PSNI would be supportive of any political intervention to create some form of independent assessment process in the future.”
He said that in order to bring a charge of murder detectives needed “credible evidence such as forensics”.
“But we also need information from the community. Community information will be vital in bringing those responsible to justice and I would again appeal to communities to support us in this regard.”
The Chief Constable also hit out at a story published in the Belfast Telegraph last week in which SDLP MLA Alex Attwood claimed police had “struck a deal” as part of the investigation into the horrific murder of Robert McCartney.
The article suggested that Police met with the Provisional IRA to strike a deal.
Mr Hamilton told the Policing Board: “We did not. That is wrong, inaccurate and irresponsible reporting.
“Let me be absolutely clear – police officers do not enter into deals as part of murder investigations.
“To suggest that PSNI would enter such a deal is not only inaccurate, but drains community confidence in our ongoing investigations.
“As Police officers, we are held accountable for our actions by this Policing Board and the Police Ombudsman. There is an ongoing Ombudsman Investigation into the murder of Robert McCartney. That investigation has the full support and co-operation of the PSNI and it must be let run its course.
On the issue of recent parades, Mr Hamilton said the marching season passed off “relatively peacefully” despite public disorder in Belfast on July 13, 14, 15 and August 9
“An attempted murder investigation is in place following an incident in which a car knocked down and seriously injured young Phoebe Clawson and Roisin McGlone in the Ardoyne shop fronts area on 13 July.
“Investigations are also being carried out into public disorder offences and as of 1 September, the investigation team has arrested and interviewed 41 people. Further arrests are planned.
“Investigations are also being conducted into breaches of Parades Commission Determinations.
“A total of 45 officers were injured whilst policing parades and protests throughout the summer months. While many of those injuries were relatively minor; a number of them were much more serious. I want to pay tribute to all the officers and staff who worked over the summer months. They did their jobs with professionalism and courage.
Flags and Bonfires:
“Flags and bonfires are symbols used by some communities at different periods during the year.
“I understand the fear and tension that these issues cause and I also understand the exasperation that builds within communities over what can be perceived as police inaction on these issues.
“The impact that this perceived inaction has on community confidence in policing is particularly frustrating for us as police officers. While we will always discharge our duties to keep people safe and prevent and detect crime; the legal regulation regarding these issues is particularly complicated and bringing prosecutions in these cases is extremely challenging.
“All of this has been explained in much more detail in answers to some of today’s Policing Board questions – and I am sure we will have some discussion about it.
“The fact remains that the PSNI can only operate within the legal framework as it exists. As we have made clear before, there is scope for the legal regime in this area to be simplified. That responsibility rests with legislators.
Resolution lies beyond policing:
“In our society space, symbols and history remain contested. In the absence of any political resolution on these issues, they continue to be left at the PSNI’s door. With each year that goes by without resolution, confidence in policing, and indeed in the entire Criminal Justice System, continues to be eroded because of the failure of others to resolve these issues.
“I am deeply concerned by this situation; and by the growing use of terms such as “two-tier policing” or “partial policing” which have played out again over the summer months. These terms are wholly inaccurate.
“Such ill-informed and erroneous commentary from those in leadership positions can fuel inaccurate perceptions and erode trust, not just in policing, but in the vision of a safe, confident and peaceful society that we are all working towards.
“This is not to say that policing cannot be criticised or held to account for our actions. But the right place for this is through the robust accountability mechanisms of this Policing Board and the Police Ombudsman.”