PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott on Boston College Belfast Project Tapes

Alan Meban (MEBAN) interviews Matt Baggott, (BAGGOTT) the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) about the Boston College tapes.
23 April 2013

MEBAN: The (US) Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal over the rest of the oral history tapes from Boston College’s Belfast Project. So why do you want to hear those tapes?

BAGGOTT: Well, it’s not because I want to hear them. It’s because a modern police service operates within the rule of law.

And Article 2 is very clear – we have to pursue effective investigations into murders and unsolved murders. And when there is evidence that becomes available we have an absolute duty to take every investigative line to pursue where the evidence takes us.

The decision making on whether there is evidential…you know…the possibility of a charge being brought – or whether there is a public interest in doing it – is not mine.

And I think there is still a confusion, particularly because devolution is so new, about the role of the police. Our role is simply to gather fact, to investigate crime and then present that to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).

So whether it’s a Boston tape or whether it’s an historical murder – there is no amnesty in Northern Ireland – but there is the law.

And the law is part of devolution of policing and justice and my job as the impartial Chief Constable is make sure we pursue that impartially.

MEBAN: Wouldn’t it have been much more straightforward though to go and talk to people involved? Dolours Price was around and talking to nearly anybody?

BAGGOTT: Well, no because see…you have to pursue tangible evidence.

And if there are tapes in existence which contain evidence which may corroborate or may not – I don’t know what’s in them – it may corroborate – it may disprove – I mean, I mean following fact isn’t about provability sometimes it can be about disproving. It’s facts. You just follow the facts.

MEBAN: But if you took a very unreliable kind of fact, reminiscences of people who have been involved in The Struggle telling war stories and saying what was going on, would it ever go to court?

BAGGOTT: But that, ultimately you see, is for the Public Prosecution to decide.

What we will do is look at that. We’ll look at the evidence. We’ll look at the fact. We’ll pursue that. Ultimately, whether a charge is sustained in court is a matter for the independent Public Prosecution Service.

And that’s where the justice system works. It works with the police pursuing facts, investigating, the Public Prosecution Service making decisions and then the courts robustly testing that evidence through due process. And you know it’s not my job to say: Oh, we’re not gonna do that because it may be inconvenient or we won’t do that because hey-ho! what’s the point? My job is to make sure that we impartially deliver effective investigations.