PSNI chief to contact Baxter over allegations
DUP accuses Matt Baggott of stonewalling over former officer’s claims
Chief Constable Matt Baggott: writing to Norman Baxter requesting him to clarify and expand on claims he made. Photograph: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott has attempted to kick to touch serious allegations made by former senior police officer Norman Baxter about alleged political interference in policing in Northern Ireland.
Mr Baggott, at a meeting of the policing board in Belfast yesterday, said he is writing to the former detective chief superintendent requesting him to clarify and expand on claims Mr Baxter made at a meeting of the House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs committee on Wednesday.
At the meeting Mr Baxter made several allegations including a claim that the Northern Ireland Office operated a culture where republicans were not to be prosecuted.
He also said that the PSNI was “scapegoated” over the collapse of the case against John Downey for his alleged involvement in the 1982 Hyde Park bombing in London in which four British soldiers
Mr Baxter also alleged that Downing Street, after being contacted by Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, tried to pressurise him into releasing two republican suspects, one of whom was later convicted for the attempted murder of an off-duty UDR soldier. He condemned Mr Baggott for apologising for the failures over the collapse of the Hyde Park court case against Downey. He said he had shown “poor leadership” over the Downey case and the issue of some 180 republican “on-the-runs” receiving letters of comfort guaranteeing they did not face prosecution in Northern Ireland.
But Mr Baggott
refused to withdraw that apology when questioned by DUP policing board member Jonathan Craig while also declining to make specific comments about Mr Baxter’s allegations.
“I am clear that the apology I gave in the aftermath of this judgment was appropriate. I stand by it,” he said.
The PSNI chief also cited several inquiries into the matter including an independent review of the on-the-runs issue by Lady Justice Heather Hallett when refusing to answer specific allegations made by Mr Baxter. “I am not going to make a judgment on that [the Baxter allegations] because it would be wrong,” he said.
He added that a letter is being sent to Mr Baxter in which he is being “asked to justify” his comments. “It was a serious allegation . . . We now want to assess exactly what the facts are . . . [and] if there’s any further action necessary then we will take that forward.”