Op Kenova - Independent Steering Group - Purpose Statement

At the request of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, I have been asked to lead an independent investigation into a range of activities surrounding an alleged State agent of the British Military known as Stakeknife. The alleged agent is suspected of being a senior member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) Internal Security Unit (ISU). 

The focus of the investigation will be to ascertain whether there is evidence of the commission of criminal offences by the alleged agent with the overriding priority of the investigation to discover the circumstances of how and why people died and to establish the truth regarding those offences within the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the investigation.

The investigative ToR for Op Kenova can be found here.

Various investigations/inquiries concerning specific incidents during the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland have previously been undertaken. These inquiries create huge public interest and come under immense scrutiny from a myriad of different interested parties.

The confidence of victims, their families and of all interested parties in the independence and professionalism of Op Kenova is of paramount importance. To succeed this investigation will require the support and bravery of victims and witnesses in coming forward to explain what happened during those difficult times. 

I am establishing an Independent Steering Group (ISG) from the outset of the investigation. The principle role of the ISG will be to advise on investigative strategy and challenge me with regards to the investigative direction and progress. The ISG will provide a layer of critical scrutiny ensuring that investigative opportunities are not missed and that those being pursued are done so with fervour. The purpose of the ISG is to reassure victims, their families and interested parties that the investigations are being conducted properly and without fear or favour. The overriding aim of the investigation is to get to the truth for the victims and families.

It should be understood that the ISG is a separate entity from the International Victims Focus Group (VFG). The ToR for the VFG will be presented to the ISG.

There is no regulatory or statutory basis for the ISG. This is a voluntary group commissioned to provide additional expertise to the Op Kenova investigation. The purpose of setting up the ISG is to deliver the best possible investigative response to the ToR.

The ISG will not be provided with sensitive investigative material and will not be accountable for the Op Kenova investigation. The accountability for Op Kenova including all decision-making and associated investigative strands will be my responsibility.

It will be my intention to share all strategic investigative documents with the ISG as part of a consultation and feedback process. I propose that the ISG meet virtually every four months and be provided with fulsome investigative updates and then have the opportunity to challenge decision-making and progress of the investigation.

A summary document or minutes of the quarterly ‘holding to account’ process will be posted on the Op Kenova investigative website.

There is a fine line of achieving an accountability process that provides transparency and reassurance to victims and families against protecting the progress of discreet and covert lines of enquiry to secure operational success. There will not be any release of information that might compromise sensitive activity or lead to the revelation of lines of enquiry or witness testimony that could compromise the success of the investigation.

The ISG will operate at a strategic level.

The overriding purpose of putting together this exceptional group of people together is to enhance public confidence in Op Kenova and to assist me in guiding this investigation in such a way as to best achieve a position that will allow the truth of what happened to the victims of these crimes to be fully discovered.

Jon Boutcher QPM Mst (Cantab)
Chief Constable