'All OTR cases under review' - Robinson

Published Tuesday, 25 March 2014
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First Minister Peter Robinson has reacted after it was revealed that the judge led inquiry into the so-called 'on-the-run' scheme will not examine every case in detail.

'All OTR cases under review' - Robinson
Peter Robinson has insisted all of the letters will be dealt with. (© 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

It comes after a row erupted last month when it emerged that the Westminster Government had sent letters to nearly 200 republicans saying they were no longer wanted.

Correspondence between the Northern Ireland Office and the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales shows that the judge leading the independent inquiry into the letters scheme, Lady Justice Hallett, will not be examining each case.

NIO director general Julian King wrote: "The reviewer may choose to look at the grounds on which the police and prosecutors reached the decisions they did and the general approach they used, but will not need to reinvestigate every case or make a fresh decision about whether a recipient of a letter should or should not have been pursued for arrest and prosecution."

However Mr Robinson insists all of the letters will be looked at again.

The DUP leader said: "All of the cases will be reviewed, whether they are reviewed by the police or by the judge is the issue.

"As I understand it the police are reviewing all 228 of those who are involved in receiving letters. I am prepared to, to use the Ulster expression, thole (tolerate) the delay until the end of June if that is required but I want to see this issue is dealt with and dealt with thoroughly.

"If I feel it is not being dealt with properly I'll cry foul you can be sure of that."

However the UUP leader, Mike Nesbitt, has said he is "deeply disappointed" that the judge will not be required to examine each individual case in detail.

"It is disappointing that at such an early stage, the scope of this Inquiry has already been narrowed so significantly," said Mr Nesbitt.

"Whilst we have full confidence in Lady Justice Hallett, restrictions should not be placed on the depth and breadth of the inquiry.

"This can only lead to a further undermining of unionist confidence in this process."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said that the letters remain lawful.

The Sinn Féin politician said: "There can't be any rescinding of an agreement which two governments effectively stood over and which Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General, said in the House of Commons was a perfectly lawful process."

Meanwhile a senior Department of Justice official has told Stormont's Justice Committee he did not know the 'on-the-runs' scheme had continued after devolution.

Nick Perry, permanent secretary at the DOJ, gave evidence to MLAs on Tuesday.

Mr Perry, who was formerly a senior official at the Northern Ireland Office, said he had "no knowledge" that the scheme had continued to operate after 2010 when powers over policing and justice were devolved to the Assembly.

He explained: "I had no knowledge of it continuing after devolution but responsibility for the operation of this scheme and for information being made available about it rests with the (NIO) secretary of state."

Justice Minister David Ford has said Secretary of State Theresa Villiers should have told him about the "shabby backdoor deal".

However he said Mr Perry could not disclose it because of strict civil service rules.

Mr Perry said: "Disclosure of information about the OTRs scheme rests with the ministers who had political and operational responsibility for it and those are direct rule ministers."

Ms Villiers has said the scheme never amounted to an amnesty.

Details of letters sent to 'on-the-runs' detailing whether or not they were wanted by police for any crimes emerged in February when such a letter - sent in error - caused a trial to collapse.

John Downey, accused of carrying out the 1982 Hyde Park bombing which killed four soldiers, walked free from the Old Bailey because he had been assured that he was not a wanted man.

The 62-year-old from Co Donegal, who denied all charges against him, had received a letter in 2007.

A series of inquires - including Judge Hallett's and a Police Ombudsman's investigation - have since been launched into the OTR controversy.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
16 Comments
David in BELFAST wrote (219 days ago):
NO-ONE should be allowed to evade justice if they have committed a crime whether they be from a Republican/Nationalist or Loyalist background. The letters sent out should ALL be recalled(recinded) and if anyone one that list has committed a crime in the past or future should be hauled before a court without any IF'S OR BUT'S and made to face trial.
Jim in Belfast wrote (219 days ago):
No change.... Interpetations... All things to all men.... Whatever they can see.. Joke peter... Ur an easy touch!!
Barry owens in Shetland islands wrote (219 days ago):
If west midlands police mistakenly sent a letter to a person or persons involved in the 11/11 bombings would they then become immune from proscecution in London.? I think not
Rab in Belfast wrote (219 days ago):
Another sickening phase in this call peace process....dirty war=dirty deals=dirty peace!sick of victims getting walked over.....
sean in beal feirste wrote (219 days ago):
Maybe he will quit again if he doesn't get what he wants....oops....I forgot, he didn't quit after all his threats the last time either! Embarrassing!
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