‘No opportunities for progress’ in probes into nine Republican OTRs

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Investigations into nine republicans who were part of a fugitive comfort letters scheme have been completed with no opportunities for progress.

On The Runs (OTRs) were those suspected but not convicted of paramilitary offences, including IRA suspects fleeing potential imprisonment for murders and other serious crimes during the Northern Ireland conflict.

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

Police in Northern Ireland are carrying out a major review into the practice in a bid to secure new evidential leads.

So far, nine people who were considered as part of the OTRs scheme have been investigated and all linked inquiries “completed”, according to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

The force said: “The involvement of OTR nominal(s) in an incident has been examined and there are no opportunities to progress the investigation.”

John Downey, from Co Donegal in the Republic of Ireland, is known to have mistakenly received a letter of assurance that he was not wanted for arrest.

He used it to escape prosecution for murdering four soldiers in the IRA’s Hyde Park bombing of 1982.

That prompted a public outcry and a review of those involved in the scheme.

Crimes linked to 36 OTRs who received official assurances have been assessed and forensic evidence examined as a priority.

The status of those involved had originally been changed from wanted to not wanted.

Suspects not being actively pursued due to a lack of sufficient evidence received a letter from the Government informing them.

Sinn Fein said the concession was necessary to restore confidence in the Government’s commitment to deal with OTRs to ensure the success of arms decommissioning, a 2014 review by senior judge Lady Justice Hallett reported.

The Government has said it was a statement of fact carrying no future guarantees.