On the Runs: Letters issued in error to two more IRA suspects

On the Runs: Letters issued in error to two more IRA suspects

TWO more Republican so-called 'On the Runs' were mistakenly issued secret letters, a review of the scheme has found.

The revelations follow on from the case of John Downey who was mistakenly told by the PSNI in 2007 that he was no longer sought by Scotland Yard in relation to the 1982 IRA attack in Hyde Park which killed four soldiers.

Mr Downey, who denies any involvement in the bombing, received an assurance he would not face prosecution.

The collapse of his trial earlier this year sparked the On the Runs crisis when a judge at the Old Bailey said that a decision to prosecute him amounted to an abuse of process.

But a senior judge has found that secret letters assuring fugitives they were no longer wanted were not an amnesty.

Lady Justice Hallett's review, ordered by David Cameron, found “significant systemic failures” in how it operated.

The report, published today (Thursday), found that letters were issued in error to two other republican terror suspects.

Lady Justice Hallett's review was commissioned following a political outcry, with Mr Cameron calling it a “dreadful mistake” and the North’s First Minister Peter Robinson threatening to resign.

The terms of reference of Lady Justice Hallett's review were to produce a full public account of the operation and extent of the scheme, and to determine whether any letters contained errors.

The judge's review will not affect the attorney general's decision against appealing the case.

The Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement of 1998 meant anyone convicted of paramilitary crimes was eligible for early release from prison.

However, this did not cover those suspected of such crimes, nor did it cover people who had been charged or convicted, but who had escaped from prison.