'No More Troubles Prosecutions'

The Northern Ireland Attorney General has sparked controversy with a call to end prosecution for Troubles-related crimes committed before the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

John Larkin QC said there should be an end to all investigations in an interview with the Belfast Telegraph.

"We need to bring to an end the prospect of inquests with respect to Troubles-related deaths," he told the paper.

"No more inquests and no more prosecutions with respect to Troubles-related deaths. Going hand in hand with that would be a commitment to developing ways in which access to State records can be facilitated consistently with the safety of individuals."

The Attorney General said the court process was not the way to deal with historical issues.

"What I am saying is that we take the lawyers out of it," he said. "Lawyers are very good at solving problems in the here and now, but lawyers are not good at historical research."

But he dismissed claims that he was calling for a Troubles amnesty.

"We are not saying as a community 'these offences didn't happen', we are simply saying they happened but we will not prosecute them.

"Even if you do use the term amnesty, there is absolutely nothing wrong with an amnesty in international law."

Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt said: "I am deeply suspicious about the timing of this. The timing is strange given that there is an active debate going on centred on dealing with the past.

"I am shocked at the lack of consultation particularly with victims, never mind the Executive. I can't believe he didn't understand the hurt and pain he would cause amongst victims.

"There is no doubt that we have to find a way of dealing with the past to allow society to move on, but it cannot disregard victims and survivors. Neither can it disregard the rule of law."

SDLP Justice Spokesperson Alban Maginness also criticised the proposal.

"For the Attorney General to suggest that there should be an end to investigations, inquests, inquiries or prosecutions for Troubles related killings whether caused by paramilitaries, the police or the Army is a dramatic policy change and a cause of real concern for the SDLP.

"For Mr. Larkin to say that his proposal does not constitute an amnesty is wrong. Mr. Larkin does recognise that many will interpret it as one - that is because that is what it will effectively be. This would amount to a blanket amnesty and the SDLP do not believe that this would be acceptable.

"The SDLP’s primary concern is for victims and survivors of state and paramilitary violence. They are entitled to justice irrespective of the lapse of time. It is very important to consider such a dramatic policy change from the point of view of those who have suffered."


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