Members were keen to question Justice Minister, David Ford, on the recent ‘on-the-run’ controversy during today’s Question Time. Mr Ford confirmed he was “unaware of the so-called administrative scheme for dealing with on-the-runs (OTRs), Operation Rapid, the associated letters, and the issuing of the royal prerogative of mercy until shortly before the judgement in the Downey case was made public”. The Minister has received briefings from the Secretary of State and officials from the NIO but has yet to meet with the Attorney General for England and Wales.
The Minister “made it clear that the DOJ would have no part in the shabby (administrative) scheme, which was initiated during direct rule and before the devolution of justice to Northern Ireland”. The content of the letters and names of those who received them are matters for the Secretary of State. As well as the Prime Minister’s announcement of a judge-led inquiry, the Police Ombudsman and Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee will also be investigating the matter – “the outcome of those inquiries should bring a degree of clarity that is currently lacking”.
Mr Ford also answered questions on the proposed Human Trafficking Bill, the National Crime Agency and support services for victims of domestic and sexual abuse. During topical questions the Minister also provided answers to Members’ queries regarding hearing loss claims by RUC officers, prison chaplains and legal highs.