Partial amnesty over Northern Ireland for security forces ‘hard to administer’
A partial amnesty for police and soldiers’ actions during the Northern Ireland conflict would be difficult to administer, the country’s top prosecutor said. https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/partial-amnesty-over-northern-ireland-for-security-forces-hard-to-administer-36369190.html
A partial amnesty for police and soldiers’ actions during the Northern Ireland conflict would be difficult to administer, the country’s top prosecutor said. Sinn Fein and the Irish government have objected after some MPs called for a “statute of limitations” law . Proposals on addressing the legacy of deaths and injuries during Northern Ireland’s 30 years of violence have not yet been published.
Departing Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory QC said a partial safeguard from prosecution favouring the security forces would be legally questionable. He said: “As DPP, a partial amnesty would be difficult to administer . I t would certainly invite challenges but it is not for me to say whether it is legal or not.
“If it is a statute, it is a statute so it will have gone through parliament.
“In terms of the international legality of it, it would be questionable.”
MPs from the House of Commons Defence Committee have called for the blocking of prosecutions. Veterans have argued that it was unfair to charge pensioners over crimes committed early in the conflict.
The UK Government has said its preferred option for addressing the past is the 2014 Stormont House Agreement between the local parties, which did not include the proposal envisaged by some Conservative MPs. Their opinions are well-known, including within Government. Stormont House included a range of measures to address the past, including an Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) to search for new opportunities to prosecute.
It also envisaged a Commission on Information Retrieval whereby relatives of the dead and injured could privately receive information about the deaths of their loved ones . Its information would be inadmissible for criminal legal proceedings. Mr McGrory said around a quarter of his total workload was taken up with dealing with legacy issues.
He added: “The last 18 months the legal landscape from a prosecutorial perspective has become increasingly dominated by legacy, it is taking up a significant amount of time.”
He said as part of any implementation of the Stormont House Agreement resources would be made available to his successor to deal with the flow of cases referred by HIU investigators.
“That will very significantly increase the workload on the PPS as far as legacy is concerned.
“It would be utterly unsustainable under the current resource pot.
“I would expect that of the pot of money set aside to implement the Stormont House Agreement a significant amount of it would come our way but it will still nevertheless be a significant burden on the prosecutor’s office.”
Belfast City Hall security lags well behind rest of UK and must be upgraded urgently, expert warns
Counter-terrorism measures to protect the public at Belfast’s Christmas Market lag far behind those at similar events across Britain, a security expert has warned. https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/belfast-city-hall-security-lags-well-behind-rest-of-uk-and-must-be-upgraded-urgently-expert-warns-36348968.html
Counter-terrorism measures to protect the public at Belfast’s Christmas Market lag far behind those at similar events across Britain, a security expert has warned. Andrew McQuillan accused the authorities of failing to do as much as they should to protect the public and called on the council to urgently make improvements.
He was speaking after the Belfast Telegraph yesterday revealed details of a counter-terrorist assessment showing City Hall was extremely vulnerable to a car bomb or lone wolf attack involving knives or other weapons. The National Counter-Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) identified the Christmas Market, which runs until December 23, as a “specific vulnerability”. The report will be discussed by the council’s strategic policy and resources committee today before it is debated at a full council meeting on December 4.
Mr McQuillan said: “I have worked on security at events across the UK, Europe and the US.
“The measures adopted in Northern Ireland just aren’t as good as those elsewhere, which is surprising given the significant paramilitary threat we faced in the recent past.
“Security at the Winter Wonderland event in London is phenomenal and that at the Christmas markets in Birmingham and Manchester is also very high.
“The measures in place at Belfast City Hall’s market lag seriously behind and this must be urgently addressed.
“We should not bury our heads in the sand . There are steps which can be taken immediately to improve the situation.”
The council has installed large planters on the pavement outside City Hall “to provide some protection in case of a vehicle-born attack” . But Mr McQuillan said that while the measure was welcome it wasn’t nearly enough. He suggested that protection could be enhanced if interlocking red-and-white security barriers were placed around City Hall . He added: “These have been placed at bridges in London before permanent barriers go up.
“They are filled with water and sand and are very cheap to erect.
“NaCTSO is a highly respected organisation . They have highlighted weaknesses and Belfast City Council really should move swiftly to implement their recommendations.”
Mr McQuillan, who owns Crowded Space Drones and whose father Alan was a former PSNI Assistant Chief Constable, said there was a dangerous complacency in Northern Ireland about the dangers of an attack at a public venue. He added: “Just because we had republican and loyalist violence in the past doesn’t exempt us from international terrorism . Some claim on social media that reporting the threat here is scaremongering.
“These people have no awareness whatsoever of public safety at events . A report from the National Counter-Terrorism Security Office is not scaremongering . It has to be taken seriously.”
Mr McQuillan also claimed it was wrongly argued that increased security would mean Northern Ireland was returning to the past.
He said: “What these people ignore is that armed police at Christmas markets in England is very normal and England usually has an unarmed police force.
“We are dealing with a new emerging threat . Not updating and changing your plans is just not smart . It is waving a red flag at a bull.
“People can choose to inhabit a bubble but it doesn’t reflect the world we live in . No risks should be taken with major events.”
Mr McQuillan said the council could apply to have the national barrier asset system deployed – temporary high-grade security fencing which protects high-profile locations or events. He added: “I feel sorry for the council as the market’s location at City Hall isn’t the easiest to protect . We really need to talk about the issue .
Ignoring it doesn’t make our vulnerability go away.
“Making security at your event look visibly as hard as possible is a great deterrent for terrorists who are hunting vulnerable targets”.
Republic vows to oppose amnesty for Troubles security forces
The Irish government will oppose any form of amnesty for security force members as part of measures to address the legacy of the Troubles. https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/republic-vows-to-oppose-amnesty-for-troubles-security-forces-36342375.html
The Irish government will oppose any form of amnesty for security force members as part of measures to address the legacy of the Troubles. Dublin last night pledged to challenge the statute of limitations proposal which is to be floated in a British Government public consultation document.
Human rights and victims groups also came out strongly against the move. An Irish Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman warned it would “not look favourably” on any form of amnesty for security forces or paramilitaries.
“There are no amnesties from prosecution provided for in the Good Friday Agreement or any subsequent agreements including the Stormont House Agreement,” he said.
“The government’s position is and will remain that the rule of law, including the requirement under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, for effective investigations of unlawful killings, must be upheld by all responsible authorities.” Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams accused London of an “act of bad faith” and said neither his party nor the Irish government had been consulted about the proposal while the SDLP and Alliance also voiced their opposition. Amnesty International said any statute of limitations imposed to block investigations for killings or torture carried out by the security forces would be “an utter betrayal of victims’ fundamental rights to justice”.
Relatives For Justice said the proposal was “a slap in the face to victims of state violence – it once again casts them as second class citizens”. A range of mechanisms to deal with the Troubles legacy were agreed by the parties in the 2014 Stormont House Agreement – an amnesty was not among them. The agreed proposals included a new independent investigatory unit, a truth recovery body and an oral archive.
They were put on hold due to ongoing political disagreement with republicans fearing the UK Government would cite national security as a reason to withhold documents from victims’ families. Secretary of State James Brokenshire announced in September that he was planning to launch a public consultation exercise in an attempt to move the situation on. It was expected to focus on the Stormont House Agreement mechanisms, but Sinn Fein emerged from its meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May (above) yesterday claiming that a new statute of limitation proposal had been inserted into the consultation document.
A Northern Ireland Office spokesman said the Government believed the Stormont House Agreement proposals still represented the “best means” to address legacy issues. However, he said that for it to be an “open and meaningful consultation” the public should have its say on alternative approaches, such as the statute of limitations proposal. Support for an amnesty is strong among DUP and Tory MPs . However, UUP MLA Doug Beattie (inset) said legal experts believed it would “inevitably have to be extended to cover all Troubles-related deaths and open the door to a general amnesty for everyone, including terrorists”.
He added: “We need to be very careful that in our desire to prevent former police officers and soldiers from being the victims of a witch hunt, we do not inadvertently open the door to an amnesty for the very terrorists they risked their lives to defeat.”
SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly added: “The British Government cannot allow any amnesty for any violent perpetrators.
“Victims and survivors of the Troubles deserve truth and justice . The British state and others must deliver that justice .
No-one should be off-limits to the rule of law.” Alliance Leader Naomi Long said: “Justice and the rule of law cannot be adjusted to make people differently accountable for their actions.
“In all cases, we should follow the evidence to wherever that leads.
“Members of the armed forces should be treated exactly the same as anyone else in a similar situation.”