Stephen Dempster reports on the heated discussion at the committee stage in the Westminster parliament earlier this week, where three of Northern Ireland’s political parties voted against the passing of legislation. The SDLP, DUP Liberal Democrats all warned the government that it was bad law, that could give rise to a series of unintended consequences:
Mr Opik, who was involved in amending the 2000 Act, said ordinary criminals could come forward and claim they were acting for a terrorist group when committing a crime and get off without a sentence. He and DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson both argued that the Government may have a view on who could qualify for the scheme but once in court the new legislation was open to a different interpretation and the flood gates could open.
“There will be unintended consequences,” said Mr Robinson. MP Sammy Wilson quoted examples of apparently non-terrorist crimes which had been heard in court as a scheduled offences because people claimed they were terrorist related. He said criminals had availed of “privileges” in the past by opting to go on a paramilitary wing in prison, even though they were not terrorists. “The door is wide open for the law to be manipulated,” he said.