Belfast Telegraph

Witnesses won't be prosecuted over RHI inquiry evidence

By Michael McHugh

Evidence by witnesses before the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) public inquiry cannot be used to prosecute them, its chairman said.

The Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory has decided that testimony would not be used against those who gave it in criminal proceedings.

The inquiry led by retired judge Sir Patrick Coghlin is due to begin oral hearings in October.

Sir Patrick sought commitment from the Public Prosecution Service to ensure that the possibility of potential criminal prosecution could not be used by anyone as a reason for not fully assisting the inquiry.

"That undertaking has now been posted upon the website and will enable us to proceed in an open, transparent and efficient manner," he said.

The commitment covers oral evidence, witness statements and documents produced solely to the inquiry. It excludes anyone who gives false testimony.

The investigation into a saga which brought down Stormont will consider the alleged lack of response by the authorities to those voicing concerns as the budget for the grant encouraging businesses to switch to sustainable energy was quickly blown.

It will look at the role played by ministers, their special advisers and civil servants as the cost spiralled out of control in late 2015.

More than 320,000 pages of documents have already been processed during preliminaries of the inquiry.

More than 320 notices had been issued to persons and organisations compelling the production of documents and witness statements. These include civil servants, government departments, former ministers and special advisers.

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