'No amnesties for OTRs' - Baggott

Published Wednesday, 05 March 2014
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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.

'No amnesties for OTRs' - Baggott
The board will meet again on Thursday. (© Pacemaker)

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."

© UTV News
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10 Comments
Adrian in Coleraine wrote (139 days ago):
Whats it matter anyhow when you already let hundreds of murderers out of jail anyhow , sure if they are charged under the good friday agreement what will they get anyhow , 2 years even for murder ! Some of them are in govenment so what does that say to the rest ! I rest my case
AK in Ireland wrote (139 days ago):
Billy hutchinson says loyalists are being persecuted! I would like to know who these people are. If hes talking about the protesters who break the law sometimes right in front of police cameras then they deserve it. Your not above the law anymore, get used to it. Sinn fein brokered a deal with the british, unionism didnt pick up on it and now they are running about like they are so so worried about the PUL people. The DUP are a joke
gerard in belfast wrote (139 days ago):
1st if the letters were not legal how come in a english court off law the judge let this man go david cameron knew off them and did nothing about them ontill wee peter robinson with a election coming and know hes going to lose some votes jump on it and put up a sham show for everybody to see and lets not me saying it it was on spotlight last night and they say that if they did come back and say the letters r not worth the paper they r printed on what is going to happen is SF going to say they r going to walk out next these letters have been going on from 2001 and in 14 years no other party knew about them a part from sf then what the hell have they been doing all this time we all knew sf had been talking to the government about OTR from the start but again there were no elections coming for the last 5 years and low and behold it comes up now funny comes to mind another get out off jail for the dup bye bye peter u wont have to resign ur going to be pushed just like big ian what gos around will come back around
glasgow in glasgow in glasgow wrote (139 days ago):
I think this whole thing is being blown out of the water...surely the unionist politicians are not that stupid we are now 16 yrs roughly into a peace process and they never once gave these otr's a thought before now..well I think its a play for the camera and to save face cos its all came out..and the way sinn fein are verbally abused by these other parties is pathetic in my veiw..they are representing a community who fought hard to be where they are today and still more needs to be done..yes unionist/loyalist communities had to struggle aswell but by the behaviour of the politicians on their side anyone would think they were blameless well they are not..someone remind billy hutchison that he was once involved in armed conflict and played his part in it
Scott in Antrim wrote (139 days ago):
Think i saw a pig fly past when that statement was made # pinnochio
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