Monday 18 December 2017

'On the runs' who got 'comfort letters' are linked to 136 incidents

A special unit established by the PSNI is reviewing the cases of 228 considered under the scheme (Stock image)
A special unit established by the PSNI is reviewing the cases of 228 considered under the scheme (Stock image)

David Young

A total of 36 republicans who received 'comfort letters' from the British government after their statuses were changed from 'wanted' to 'not wanted' are linked to 136 incidents, police said.

On the runs (OTRs) were suspects fleeing potential imprisonment for murders and other serious offences during the Northern Ireland conflict.

A special unit established by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is reviewing the cases of 228 considered under the scheme.

"These individuals are linked to many serious crimes throughout the period of the Troubles. The focus is on 36 individuals, referenced within the report of Lady Justice Hallett, whose status had previously been changed from 'wanted' to 'not wanted'. The team has reviewed 136 incidents linked to those 36 individuals," chief constable George Hamilton said.

Lady Justice Hallett, who examined the OTRs scheme, noted that a comparatively high number of suspects had their statuses changed to 'not wanted' between February 1, 2007, and October 20, 2008.

The contentious process, agreed between Sinn Féin and the last Labour government, saw letters sent to republicans informing them they were not being sought by the UK authorities.

Those who were not being actively pursued by police due to a lack of sufficient evidence received a letter informing them, which the government said was a statement of fact carrying no future guarantees.

Police have revealed that OTRs who received letters were linked to hundreds of murders. Some unionists claimed it was like a 'get out of jail free card'.

Irish Independent

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