Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

On-the-runs 'facing prosecution' warns Peter Robinson

First Minister Peter Robinson speaks to the media outside the Stormont Hotel, Belfast, following the publishing of the Hallet Review into controversial amnesties for on the run prisoners
First Minister Peter Robinson speaks to the media outside the Stormont Hotel, Belfast, following the publishing of the Hallet Review into controversial amnesties for on the run prisoners

The First Minister has said that files on some on-the-run suspects who had received letters of assurance have been forwarded to the DPP.

Peter Robinson suggested that new letters may soon go to OTR suspects invalidating or qualifying the old ones to remove any bar to prosecution.

"The PSNI have set up a dedicated unit which is investigating all of the OTR cases and as a result of that they have already started to put files through to the Public Prosecution Service for prosecutions of those who have received letters of comfort," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

Yesterday Drew Harris of the PSNI revealed that new evidence has already been found on 10 suspects.

Mr Robinson believes that it will take the PSNI four years to check the remaining OTR letters. He is seeking ways to speed up this process.

He said: "I feel that we should be looking at the resources of the PSNI to find out whether they could expedite this process if additional resources were made available. You could have some court cases coming up that have not been properly processed so the letters need to go out as quickly as possible."

The DUP leader was reacting to suggestions from Stephen Cooper, a TUV spokesman, that he should resign because the Hallett review of on-the-run letters did not meet his conditions.

Mr Robinson had specified that the report should reveal details of terrorist suspects who received letters and should result in the letters being rescinded.

Mr Cooper accused the DUP leader of going "on the run from his promise".

"I don't accept that I didn't get what I asked for. What I required was to have a judge-led inquiry. I got that. I never set down any conditions beyond that," Mr Robinson said.

He argued: "I don't accept that the issue of the rescinding of letters is something that is over. There is a clear recommendation from Lady Justice Hallett in her report that indicates that the Secretary of State needs to take steps to ensure that the issue is dealt with.

"I am happy to say that the Secretary of State gave a public formal undertaking... that she will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the letters form no bar to prosecution in the future."

Mr Robinson added: "When I met with Lady Justice Hallett she said that if she was to publish them that could be the basis for an abuse of process application which would allow people to avoid prosecution and to avoid justice."

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