Arlene Foster: Terrorist perpetrators are not victims

DUP leader Arlene Foster has called for the definition of a victim to be changed to exclude terrorist perpetrators.

Unionists harbour long-standing objections to categorising paramilitaries injured during attacks in the same bracket as their targets and bystanders.

Arlene Foster

Arlene Foster

The DUP used its submission to a British Government consultation on addressing the legacy of thousands of Northern Ireland conflict deaths to press for change.

Mrs Foster said: “New UK-wide legislation to improve the definition of a victim is necessary.

“We consider the 2006 definition of a victim and survivor to be unacceptable.

“In our opinion, there is a clear distinction in law between a terrorist perpetrator and their innocent victim.

“To equate the two is morally wrong and indefensible.

“The Government should bring forward plans now to change the definition of a victim so there is a clear distinction made between perpetrators and victims.

“We believe this could improve the existing climate and context and offer the best prospect of new bodies proving successful.”

A Government consultation on addressing the legacy of past violence is closing, with bodies suggested including an Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) to seek criminal prosecutions and an information retrieval organisation.

The DUP said it had “major concerns” over elements of the draft Bill proposed by the Northern Ireland Office, and without significant amendment, anticipated it will not meet the objective of properly addressing the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past.

Mrs Foster said: “The Government’s latest proposals are being viewed through the lens of two decades of offence and outrage felt by innocent victims, and where the definition of a victim continues to be unjust and unacceptable.

“The DUP considers the best opportunity for justice to come from an investigatory team with full police powers.

“It is important that any new structures would be proportionate given 90% of deaths were caused by terrorists, and there should be an end to witch hunts against those in the forces of law and order who acted bravely, honourably and appropriately.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein has described as “appalling” the Police Federation for Northern Ireland’s (PFNI) stance on legacy issues.

Serving police officers have urged the Government to scrap its “one-sided and unfair” legacy proposals for Northern Ireland.

The Federation characterised the HIU as a parallel police service and said a suggested new offence of “non-criminal police misconduct” could be construed as another word for collusion.

Sinn Fein policing spokesman Gerry Kelly said: “For the Police Federation to warn that PSNI officers and former RUC and officers will not co-operate with legally-constituted bodies dealing with the legacy of the conflict is appalling.”

He challenged the Federation to clarify whether its members are withholding information about past crimes, following comments by its chairman Mark Lindsay.