Belfast Telegraph

OTR inquiry report due next month

A judge-led inquiry investigating a Government scheme to deal with fugitive republicans will report next month, Theresa Villiers has said.

The Northern Ireland Secretary told MPs she will see the final report of the Hallett inquiry for the first time on July 16 before it is published on July 17.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced the inquiry, led by Lady Justice Heather Hallett, a fter the collapse of a case against a man accused of the IRA's Hyde Park bomb in 1982 - an attack that killed four soldiers.

The prosecution of John Downey, 62, from Co Donegal, was halted last month when it emerged he was wrongly sent a so-called letter of assurance informing that him the authorities in the UK were not looking for him.

Downey, who was wanted by detectives in London, had denied the murder of the four soldiers.

The administrative scheme dispatched so-called letters of assurance to around 200 individuals, who have been referred to as "on the runs", to inform them they were not being actively sought by the authorities.

In a written statement put before the Commons, Ms Villiers said: "I would like to announce that the report of the Hallett inquiry will be published on 17 July.

"On that day, I will make a further statement to this House and lay the report in both Houses.

"As the person responsible for publication of the Hallett report once it is delivered to me, I have a duty to act in a way that is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

"To fulfil this duty, I need to take steps to satisfy myself that publication of the report will not breach Article 2 of the Convention by putting the lives or safety of individuals at risk."

Ms Villiers went on: " In order to comply with these duties, prior to publication the report has to be checked by a team of legal advisers and officials in relation to human rights and national security matters.

"This is in line with the approach used for the Bloody Sunday, Billy Wright and Rosemary Nelson Inquiries, and the de Silva Review.

"The report is being prepared for publication by Lady Justice Hallett's team.

"I will see the final report for the first time on 16 July, 24 hours before publication.

"As with the publication of previous reports, I intend to grant advance sight to those who Lady Justice Hallett has recommended as being interested parties."

Raising the issue at the weekly Commons business statement, DUP MP Ian Paisley (North Antrim) called for legislation.

Addressing Commons leader Andrew Lansley, Mr Paisley said: "You will be aware the letters to on the runs have aroused great anxiety in Northern Ireland and that efforts should be made to ensure those letters cannot be allowed to allow people to evade justice, as appears to have been the case with one person.

"Without wishing to pre-judge the outcome of the statement on July 17, will you set aside parliamentary time if necessary to legislate on the annulment of those letters to on the run prisoners?"

Mr Lansley said: "I think you will understand if I not only don't prejudice that statement but the question you ask is not one I can comment upon at this stage.

"It is sufficient for now the statement will be on July 17 and separately in this House, the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee are undertaking their own... detailed inquiry into all the matters surrounding the on the runs."

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