March 27 2012

The police ombudsman’s office will double the number of staff working on historical Troubles cases following a £10 million funding injection, it has been announced.

Almost 40 people will address more than 100 incidents referred by police and members of the public.

Ombudsman interim chief executive Colin Lewis said: “It was obvious to me that the office simply did not have the resources to complete its historical investigations in a timely manner.

“The Department of Justice, accepting this, has approved the release of additional money, which is excellent news, particularly for many families who have been waiting patiently to have issues related to the deaths of their loved ones investigated.

“This decision brings some much-needed clarity to the task ahead.”

The extra funding over six years comes as the ombudsman’s office prepares for the announcement of a new ombudsman. Al Hutchinson departed in February following a series of critical reports about relations at his office.

The ombudsman’s director of historical investigations Paul Holmes said the extra money would allow restructuring of the unit, one section dealing with individual matters, another with complex cases and one supporting people connected to the cases.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that the PSNI spent more than £4 million on the first loyalist supergrass trial in Northern Ireland for more than 25 years.

Twelve men were acquitted of all charges against them after a judge branded two main prosecution witnesses liars and ruthless terrorists. The trial, one of the most expensive ever held in Northern Ireland, relied on the evidence of supergrasses Robert and Ian Stewart.

Nine men involved in the Ulster Volunteer Force trial were acquitted of the murder of Ulster Defence Association leader Tommy English, including alleged former UVF leader in north Belfast Mark Haddock.