Belfast Telegraph

Clarity at last thanks to open judicial system

By Liam Clarke

The mystery is gradually dissipating from both the on-the-run (OTR) letters and the exercise of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy (RPM) for Troubles-era offences – and it is thanks to the judicial system, not the politicians here or in London.

The system's worst flaw was that it kept victims in the dark and politicians, to some extent, colluded in that.

A good deal of information was put into the public domain but you had to piece it together, and senior politicians should have done so. As Sir Declan Morgan, the Lord Chief Justice, predicted yesterday, clarity is gradually coming though the judiciary.

"The fact that the courts will do that in a transparent and open way with access of the public to everything that goes on within the principle of open justice is actually positive. It may be at the moment that it all looks rather fraught. But in the end, I would hope that the public will gain confidence from the fact that the courts will examine these things and expose wrongdoing if it is there and otherwise explain events that have occurred," he told Wendy Austin in a rare interview.

The NIO won't release the names of those granted the RPM here, even though they are made public in England.

Yesterday Mr Justice Stephens cut that knot by naming recipients in a judgment effectively refusing a UVF killer a royal pardon.

For those who read it, the judgment freeing John Downey on bombing charges also contains detailed information on OTR letters.

Mr Downey had mistakenly been given a letter at a time when he was wanted for murder. The court honoured it, but also analysed the system which issued it.

Hopefully, next month Lady Justice Hallet's review will bring more transparency and allow us to move on.

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