Urgent Question from Ian Paisley Democratic Unionist MP for North Antrim:
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if she will make a statement on the recent development in the on-the-runs scheme that has allowed a second fugitive to evade justice.
In response, Theresa Villiers said:
On Monday 26 January, the Coroner conducting the inquest into the death of Mr Gareth O’Connor, who disappeared in May 2003, directed that the inquest should be stayed, pending a full Police Service of Northern Ireland investigation into one of the suspects for Mr O’Connor’s murder.
The suspect was part of the administrative scheme dealing with so-called on the runs and was in receipt of a letter from the Northern Ireland Office informing him he was not wanted for arrest by police forces across the UK.
This case is specifically covered on pages 107 and 108 of the Hallett report into on the runs, where it is described as ‘error 2’.
As such, the fact of the error has been in the public domain for some time and this case is not a new development.
The PSNI are investigating the suspect’s case and will be considering whether charges can be brought against the individual concerned.
I spoke to the Chief Constable of the PSNI yesterday and I understand from him that this is a live police investigation.
I also briefed the Justice Minister on this case.
The police will investigate where the evidence leads them.
Under the circumstances, it would not be appropriate to comment further on the specifics of this case.
In relation to the OTR administrative scheme, I set out the Government’s position in full in my statement to the House on 9 September.
This followed detailed consideration of report by Lady Justice Hallett that was published in July.
I made clear in my statement that the scheme is at an end and that there is no basis for any reliance on letters received under the scheme by so-called on the runs.
There is no amnesty, immunity or exemption from prosecution.
Those who received letters under this scheme should be in no doubt.
If there is considered to be evidence or intelligence of their involvement in crime they will be investigated by the police and if the evidence is sufficient to warrant prosecution they will be prosecuted.