OTR immunity ‘a perversion of justice’ – Allister

IRA gunman on Whiterock Rd Belfast 1986
IRA gunman on Whiterock Rd Belfast 1986

Immunity from prosecution granted to prison escapees amounted to an abuse of power, Jim Allister has said.

In response to a letter from the TUV leader, the assistant director of Public Prosecutions confirmed that 15 individuals “identified in the administration scheme as being on the run” had their files marked “no prosecution”.

The escapees included twelve republicans who broke out of the Maze in 1983, two who escaped in 1975 and one in 1997.

Mr Allister claims the DPP’s decision – made in 2001 – that prosecutions were not in the public interest was made to facilitate “the NIO’s political imperative of pandering to the IRA”.

In his response, the assistant director said: “I can inform you that in 2001 decisions for no prosecution based upon the public interest were issued in respect of 15 individuals who had been identified in the administrative scheme as being on the run. In each of these cases the decision for no prosecution was in relation to a suspected offence of escaping from prison.

“In relation to the 12 persons suspected of escape in 1983 decision for no prosecution based on evidential grounds in respect of other offences were issued at the same time.”

Mr Allister said there is no offence easier to prove than escape from lawful custody and added: “The entire OTR scandal demonstrates how far the rule of law and due process was subverted for political reasons. Now, this confirmation of amnesty for IRA escapees underscores that perversion of justice.”

In September 2000, then Secretary of State Peter Mandelson announced the government would no longer be seeking the extradition of convicted paramilitaries who would have been eligible for early release under the Good Friday Agreement. At the time, Mr Mandelson said he understood the hurt felt by victims but said the decision did not amount to an amnesty.

“I do not believe that it would not be proportionate or in the public interest to continue to pursue such cases,” he said.

Last year there were 15,628 no prosecution decisions – with 756 deemed not to be in the public interest and the vast majority due to insufficient evidence.

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