FM questions legality of OTR letters

Published Wednesday, 05 March 2014
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First Minister Peter Robinson has said there is a question over the legality of those letters issued to the so-called 'on-the-runs' after the devolution of policing and justice powers to Stormont in 2010.

FM questions legality of OTR letters
Robinson said the matter should have been a concern for the justice minister. (© UTV)
FACTBOX: OTR INQUIRY
Headed by
judge
Will review
all documentation & those involved
Will not
compel anyone to attend or be questioned under oath
Will produce
full public account & recommendations
Will determine
if letters were sent in error
No 10 says
past ministers don’t have to attend

Speaking to UTV, the DUP leader said the 38 cases dealt with after policing powers were transferred to Stormont should have been a matter for the Justice Minister David Ford.

He said: "It is fairly clear to me that the matters of responsibility lie with the devolved institution and the justice minister should have been informed of those issues and he rather than anybody else should have been deciding whether such letters were sent out or not."

A political row erupted in Northern Ireland and in Westminster following the collapse of the trial of John Downey.

He denied charges of involvement in the 1982 London Hyde Park bombing.

Mr Downey was informed by the PSNI in 2007 that there was no interest in him from them, or any other police force across the UK.

However, this assertion proved to be inaccurate as it later transpired that the Metropolitan Police in London wanted to question Mr Downey in relation to the attack.

When the letter was revealed in court, the trial judge threw the case out.

The revelation led Prime Minister David Cameron to order a judge led inquiry into the existence of the letters.

Had it been a matter for the justice minister, he would have had the ability to stop it back in 2010.

Peter Robinson

In the aftermath of the trial it emerged 187 so-called letters of comfort had been sent to those suspected of terrorist crimes.

Peter Robinson said Chief Constable Matt Baggott has told him the PSNI has dealt with 228 cases under the scheme.

"I haven't received any information that says they are legal or illegal," continued Mr Robinson.

"That is why the inquiry will look at that matter, but it seems plain to me that if by responsibility for prosecutions is a devolved matter and if the responsibility for the police is a devolved matter then there is a Northern Ireland devolved institution responsibility for those matters."

Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly, however, said the legality of the letters had been established in a court of law.

The North Belfast MLA added: "These letters have now been tested in court and John Downey's letter was brought to court.

"There were all sorts of things said around it but the final analysis was a government agreed scheme and it was the British attorney general that was involved in it.

"The letters are legal and in the end they did what they said."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
6 Comments
martin in belfast wrote (237 days ago):
the sheep will still vote DUP. baaaaaa
stephen in N.Ireland wrote (239 days ago):
And Jesus wept.
gerard in belfast wrote (240 days ago):
lets not talk carp peter robinson was never going to resign and the dup and the uup and the rest off them knew something was going on with the otr and for david cameron to say he didnt know is another lie cause he say last week some off the letters were sended in 2010 so he was the top dog then if there were no elections this year and next year i dont think we would have so much fuss over them can any off them tell the truth but like i have seen my whole life living in n.ireland when it comes to election year the dup r best at getting the protestant people blood up big ian did it and look how long before we some kind off peace now peter is trying it i wonder how long before something happens that we all end up back in the so call troubles before that happens lets get this whole lot out and some new people in who want whats best for the people off n.ireland not this sham that we r getting we r better then this so please wise up for the sake off r childen and r grand kids used u vote for them ta
Michael in Templepatrick wrote (240 days ago):
Peter your 'crisis' has failed miserably.
Yer Man in Belfast wrote (240 days ago):
It seems that the british government constantly "dump" on their own people. Its all a joke, even the foundation of NI at the "cooling off period" of partition was based on sectarianism.
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