Republicans warned over OTR letters

Republicans warned over OTR letters

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has told the Westminster committee on the 'on-the runs' scandal that those who received letters should not rely on them.

Ms Villiers was quizzed by MPs on Wednesday about the government's controversial administrative scheme which saw around 200 republicans told they were no longer wanted by police.She said: "No-one should rely on them any longer to regulate their behaviour. If they drew some comfort from those letters in the past they should no longer draw comfort from them in the future."Sir Jonathan Stephens, permanent secretary at the Northern Ireland Office, is also appearing before the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on Wednesday.The 'on-the-runs' programme came to light in February of this year following the collapse of the trial of Co Donegal man John Downey, who denied involvement in the 1982 Hyde Park bombing.I'm not sure rescind is the appropriate term but they should not be relied onTheresa VilliersHe walked free from the Old Bailey because he had wrongly been told in a letter, received in 2007, that he was not wanted by the Metropolitan Police.There have since been a number of investigations into the incident, including a judge-led review which was ordered by Prime Minister David Cameron.Lady Justice Hallett found serious failings in the 'on-the-runs' administrative scheme - but also that letters sent to terrorism suspects "did not amount to an amnesty".Ms Villiers continued: "The Hallett report concludes that errors of fact were made, and errors of judgment may have been made, in cases considered under the scheme.CHAR(13) + CHAR(10)"In the light of this, no one should take any comfort from these letters. No one should rely on them."To all those who have a letter I say - if the police or prosecuting authorities have evidence which is available today or becomes available in the future to pursue you, they can and will pursue you."Ms Villiers added that she will make a fuller written statement to Parliament in "the coming days".

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