The least we should demand is the truth

Previously, I noted the differing approaches to dealing with OTRs. In today’s Sunday Times Liam Clarke has a look at the proposed legislation, in the UK, and the proposed pardons, in the Republic of Ireland.. and has difficulty deciding which approach is more inept.From the Sunday Times

The legislation proposed by the British government to cover Northern Ireland is preferable, but only marginally. In some respects, it will lead to a greater injustice because it will apply to far more murders and will deny many more victims the truth that they deserve. While 113 people were killed in the republic during the course of the Troubles, the loss of life in Northern Ireland totalled 3,267, with a further 125 murdered in Britain.

In the north, suspects will apply to an eligibility body and their cases will be heard by a tribunal with the power to find them guilty or innocent. If guilty they will immediately be released on licence, leaving them subject to recall to serve the sentence if they are suspected of further crime. Unlike the Irish proposals, this offers some sanction against future bad behaviour. The rub is that the person applying to this scheme need never appear in front of the tribunal. They need only send a letter and if they want a lawyer to plead their case, they will qualify for full legal aid.

Offenders who send a letter pleading “not guilty” will have a legal team to work on their behalf in their absence. They can subpoena police officers and other witnesses to plead their case, demand discovery of sensitive documents and they will be entitled to full disclosure of any evidence against them, even if it is not made public. They can question victims and witnesses, but need face no questions themselves.

There will be no downside, no cost and no incentive not to waste the court’s time. Even if they are convicted, they will walk free on licence. As a result, it is almost inevitable that prosecuting authorities will often seek to limit the damage of disclosure and the expense of proceeding by offering no evidence and the result will be an acquittal.

Whether Clarke is right to argue that transforming the legislation into some kind of version of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission would be an improvement is, however, open to question.. the same resistance to furnishing the truth about the events in question would remain.