'No amnesties for OTRs' - Baggott

'No amnesties for OTRs' - Baggott

Chief Constable Matt Baggott has told the Policing Board there are no get out of jail cards or amnesties for 'on-the-run' paramilitary suspects.

He was speaking after an emergency meeting of the board took place on Wednesday to discuss the matter of government letters sent to 187 so-called 'on-the-runs'.Mr Baggott said: "As far as I am concerned there are no get out of jail cards, there are no amnesties and there are no letters of immunity. If new evidence emerges then it will be investigated and we will send reports to the Public Prosecution Service."Meanwhile at Westminster, the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee has decided to establish an inquiry into the scheme for fugitives.It comes in addition to the judge-led inquiry ordered last week by Prime Minister David Cameron and a separate investigation by the Police Ombudsman.David Simpson, DUP MP for Upper Bann, said: "We need to establish how it was set up, its legal basis and how it was administered."The issue of so-called 'on-the-runs' came to light after the court case against former Hyde Park bombing suspected John Downey was thrown out when it emerged he had been sent a letter saying he was no longer wanted by police. He denied charges linked to the 1982 attack.Matt Baggott, who has previously accepted that the PSNI take "full responsibility for the failures" which had occurred, said a judge will now look at the legitimacy of the letters.He continued: "The actual status of the letter itself is a matter for the judge himself to decide. The actual legitimacy is for the judge to inquire upon within the next three months."A statement from the Policing Board, which will meet again on Thursday, said it is important that the PSNI is held accountable for matters within their responsibility.It added: "Members had a series of questions to the Chief Constable on the PSNI approach and process followed in review. The Chief Constable told the Board that the PSNI actions in this process were legitimate and lawful and that the PSNI do not believe the letters confer an amnesty."Members intend to seek further information on these matters and the process for this will be considered at the Board meeting tomorrow."Board member Gerry Kelly, Sinn Féin, said: "Frankly nothing has changed. It hasn't really moved on at all and the demands of the DUP are not happening, it is clear the letters have not been rescinded."I don't think this meeting has achieved an awful lot except that the PSNI, and rightly so, have reiterated their position this is lawful and they did the right thing."A protest was staged outside Wednesday's board meeting by the PUP.Party leader Billy Hutchinson said: "While republicans have been offered de facto immunity from prosecution, loyalists continue to be persecuted and harassed disproportionally by the work of the Historical Enquiries Team. We are asking that the work of the HET and PSNI Legacy Unit are suspended until a full and proper independent investigation is conducted."


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