Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Chief Constable: 'Debate is worth having' over proposal to draw a line under Troubles' investigations

Published 12/02/2016

George Hamilton said a debate over the dealing with crimes of the past is worth having.
George Hamilton said a debate over the dealing with crimes of the past is worth having.

The Chief Constable of the PSNI has said a debate about whether to draw a line under investigations into Northern Ireland's violent past is worthwhile.

Three years ago in an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, Attorney General John Larkin said there should be a halt to all probes into offences carried out before the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

John Larkin QC, the chief legal adviser to the power-sharing Executive, also advocated ruling out further inquests and inquiries into the crimes committed during the 30-year conflict.

He said: "We need to bring to an end the prospect of inquests with respect to Troubles-related deaths.

"No more inquests and no more prosecutions with respect to Troubles-related deaths. Going hand in hand with that would be a commitment to developing ways in which access to State records can be facilitated consistently with the safety of individuals."

At the time Mr Larkin faced accusations that his proposals amounted to an amnesty - which he denied.

There was a negative response from the families of those killed by republican and loyalist paramilitaries and state forces who expressed outrage at the suggestion those perpetrators yet to be caught should not face justice.

Now in an interview with the BBC the Chief Constable George Hamilton weighed in to the issue and said it should be open to debate.

He told the BBC: "I think that is largely a political question. It's a debate worth having.

"The Attorney General three years ago put that on the table and there was a very negative political response to the suggestions.

"It's a debate worth having, but I'm not advocating one way or the other, because fundamentally how we deal with the past in that sense is for the politicians."

Troubles crimes are already treated somewhat differently in the eyes of the law in Northern Ireland.

Anyone convicted in the present day of a conflict-related offence committed pre-1998 can only be sentenced to a maximum of two years in prison while effective amnesties have been offered to those engaged in decommissioning weapons or co-operating with the search for those "Disappeared" victims whose remains have never been found.

However the proposed block on future Troubles prosecutions would be an entirely new proposition.

Such a development could only happen with sufficient support within the Stormont Executive.

Online Editors

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph