Belfast Telegraph

No fugitive 'comfort letter' republicans reported to prosecutors yet

No fugitive "comfort letter" republicans suspected of serious crimes have been reported to prosecutors yet.

A total of 145 crimes linked to 36 IRA On The Runs (OTRs) who received official assurances have been reviewed and forensic evidence examined as a priority, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) chief constable said.

The status of those involved had originally been changed from wanted to not wanted.

The investigation by detectives in Northern Ireland is ongoing after the issue was raised in a senior judge's report two-and-a-half years ago.

PSNI chief George Hamilton said: "At this time no cases have been concluded, no person has been reported to the Public Prosecution Service and potential investigative opportunities are still being sought."

OTRs were suspects fleeing potential imprisonment for murders and other serious offences during the Northern Ireland conflict.

The contentious peace process, agreed between Sinn Fein and the last Labour government, saw letters sent to republicans informing them they were not being sought by the authorities in the UK.

Police were asked to review people regarded as "wanted" in connection with terrorist-related offences up to April 10 1998, the date of the Good Friday Agreement.

Those who were not being actively pursued due to a lack of sufficient evidence received a letter from the Government informing them.

Sinn Fein said the concession was necessary to restore confidence in the Government's commitment to deal with OTRs to ensure the success of arms decommissioning, a review by senior judge Lady Justice Hallett reported.

The Government said it was a statement of fact carrying no future guarantees.

Mr Hamilton updated MPs on the police review.

He said: "The 36 individuals, highlighted within the report of Lady Justice Hallett as having had their status changed from wanted to not wanted, have been prioritised.

"The purpose of this is to better understand the rationale for the status change and to identify whether any opportunities currently exist to bring those offenders to justice.

"To date, we have completed reviews of 145 serious crimes to which those individuals are linked and this includes a re-examination of the forensic potential within each case."


From Belfast Telegraph