Bid to end prosecutions slammed by victims’ groups and politicians alike
A victims campaign group has reacted with fury after Secretary of State Brandon Lewis challenged people in Northern Ireland to come up with a better alternative to his Troubles legacy proposals.
Mr Lewis intends to introduce legislation to create a proposed statute of limitations which would end all prosecutions for incidents up to April 1998 and would apply to military veterans as well as ex-paramilitaries.
The proposals, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson said would allow Northern Ireland to "draw a line under the Troubles", would also end all associated legacy inquests and civil actions.
Victims’ groups and politicians in Northern Ireland have slammed the plans.
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, the Secretary of State said he recognised his proposals had faced a wall of criticism, but challenged his critics to come up with something better, describing his plan as ‘the only durable way forward’.
“What we have proposed is not perfect. So I would urge — in the strongest possible terms — any and all interested parties, if they have a better way of dealing with Northern Ireland’s legacy issues to, please, tell us. If there is somewhere, somehow, a better way, we can all work together to deliver it. For what we all surely also agree on is the desire for Northern Ireland to face forwards to its brighter future,” Mr Lewis wrote.
But victims’ campaigner Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United said: “For a quarter of a century the political system has subverted the criminal justice system; early prisoner releases, on-the-run assurance letters, and Royal Prerogatives of Mercy are just a number of overt and covert ways in which this has been done.
“The State is now proposing to extinguish the most fundamental principle of any democratic society; the right to justice”.
He called on the Secretary of State to work with his and other victims groups to develop a ‘victim-centred solution’ to Troubles legacy issues.
“We have put forward an alternative proposal to the Secretary of State and we will be refining this proposal and will be engaging with him, his office, local and national political parties and the Irish government who must cease the role of spectator and actively engage with the process, with a view to facing up to their own actions and inactions over the years of the terrorist campaign.”
Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said his party would be offering alternative ideas to the Government.
“The Ulster Unionist Party has consistently called for the PSNI’s Legacy Investigations Branch to be properly funded and resourced in order to enable it to investigate all historic and legacy related crimes.
"This would be the standard practice in the rest of the UK and indeed the Republic, and that is what we have suggested be done in Northern Ireland.
“We shall be submitting a paper to the Secretary of State to help inform the debate and outline our ideas.
"We will also continue to challenge the Irish government to put to paper on what they propose to do in regards to legacy investigations.”