Republicans warned over OTR letters

Published Wednesday, 03 September 2014
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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.

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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 on

Theresa Villiers

He 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.
"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".

© UTV News
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6 Comments
The Future in England wrote (57 days ago):
ha of course what ever you say,
H.Campbell in UK wrote (58 days ago):
This stark truth is one of the reasons why Nationalists can never truly trust any British government. They make deals and renege on them on a whim depending upon which side is in power. It is becoming increasingly obvious that Cameron is becoming under more pressure from UKIP by the day and will need his fallback option in times of need - NI Unionists. They, if they have any brains at all, should use this time to squeeze what they can, while they can. The problem is that should there be a change of government then all concessions gained May well belost. It is the way of the British Government . Negotiate peace,then consign agreements made to the dustbin in order to appease neanderthals.
Lorna in Belfast wrote (58 days ago):
For a legal expert, Theresa Villiers hasn't looked at her law very much, one OTR letter was comfort enough and tested already. I think she needs to stop her British scaremongering, maybe if she and her cronies put some more effort into getting the Haas proposals going she'd leave a half decent legacy. Shes no Mo Mowlam.
Michael in Templepatrick wrote (58 days ago):
Another day, another British government u-turn.
Trevor in Banbridge wrote (58 days ago):
Hmmmm! Can we trust what she says? I don't think so. Make you wonder what back door deal may have been done with Republicans to sweep the matter under the carpet.
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