Peter Hain: The government’s amnesty plan goes far beyond anything we agreed in the On The Run scheme

A letter from the Right Honourable Lord Hain:

Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 9:14 pm
Updated Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 9:25 pm
Tony Blair and Peter Hain in 2005, when the former was prime minister and the latter was secretary of state for Northern Ireland

In his letter published yesterday (‘Lord Hain criticises an amnesty yet the PM for whom he worked, Blair, agreed one,’ December 1, see link below) in relation to the On The Runs Administrative Scheme, William Spence is wrong on two counts.

He states in terms that “letters of comfort” were issued to “hundreds of wanted (my emphasis) republican terrorist bombers and murders”.

These letters were issued to people that the PSNI and the prosecuting authorities, having reviewed whether or not an arrest/prosecution was justified in each case, expressly said were not (also my emphasis) wanted.

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Letter to the editor

Neither I, nor any of my predecessors or successors as Secretary of State, nor officials had any part in making those decisions.

In the case of John Downey there was a catastrophic mistake made by the PSNI because while Downey was not wanted by the PSNI, he was wanted by the Metropolitan Police.

That information was, for whatever reason, not passed on to senior PSNI officers and therefore was not passed on to the Northern Ireland Office.

On the more general point Mr Spence makes about the Administrative Scheme, a distinguished Court of Appeal Judge, Lady Hallett carried out a thorough review of the scheme in 2014.

She concluded that while there were flaws in the evolution of the scheme, it was not an amnesty for terrorists nor were suspected terrorists handed a ‘get out of jail free card’.

She also found that the scheme was not secret.

But what the government is currently proposing goes way beyond anything in the OTRs Scheme.

It is a blanket amnesty.

It is saying to people who carried out some of the most heinous crimes imaginable: “What you did no longer matters” and because of that it is saying to victims and survivors, “What happened to you no longer matters”.

That deserves to be denounced in the strongest possible terms and rejected.

The Right Honourable Lord Hain, House of Lords, Westminster

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