Do we need a ‘statute of limitation’ for past injustices?

There’s an interesting argument from Matt over at the Wardman Wire… In effect he argues that a statute of limitations should apply to the killings of Bloody Sunday (and, by implication, if I read him correctly, in the words of Col Wilford, Bloody everything the IRA have ever touched?). Not for political expediency. In fact for the very opposite reason: testimony, and in particular eyewitness testimony is likely to be highly unreliable at this remove from the events involved. So, he quotes Max Hastings:

…explaining why he refused to give evidence to the Saville Enquiry, after denouncing Widgery as a cover-up:

“I gave evidence to Widgery, but then when Saville came along I was asked to give evidence to Saville and I refused. They said why wouldn’t I do it, and I said that after all these years my memory is hopeless. I don’t remember exactly what happened that day. They then sent me a copy of my Widgery evidence, and I said … well, this proves my point … I’m sure what I said to Widgery at the time was true, but I’ve completely forgotten all the things I said I’d seen, and if I’d given evidence to Saville then I’d just have been parrotting everything I’d told widgery all those years before.

And it is absurd, it seems to me … I opposed the War Crimes Trials of old World War 2 criminals for the same reason … after 38 years it is ludicrous to suppose that a huge number of people, all with their own agendas, can be relied on to get it right.”

Interesting idea. And one not entirely incompatible with that which Peter Robinson shared with Eamonn Mallie last night…

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  • Henry94

    It’s a good reason to draw a line. The other one is that we should all move on. But some are being asked to move on from deep loss and it’s not easy.

    I would give a blanket immunity for the period and set up a T&R commission. There should be a place where someone can go and state their involvement and express their regret. They should have the option of asking the families of the victims to be present should they choose to.

    We would need a statement from what’s left of the main paramilitaries and from the British government that their people are free to attend. No media should be involved in the process but everybody should be free to issue statements afterwards.

  • Johnny Boy

    It’s a valid point. (Not that I am Saville denier before I am accused of rampant loyalism)

  • Brian Walker

    Well, I’ve heard and read Max on this several times.It’s not quite the bully point it seems. First, Max admits he wasn’t actually a witness so he didn’t have much to contribute. Being Max and never one to hide his light under a bushel, he still has to make a comment.

    Secondly, if you had opened fire on unarmed people you might well not want to admit it but you’d remember it for the rest of your life. And third, although Saville was unable to discover the real story from the paratroops, he had enought to go on to reach the conclusions he did.

    Enough to convict is a different matter. Incidentally on grounds similar to Saville’s I support prosecutions by War Crimes tribunals. They are carried out scrupulously and put down an important marker to posterity that the worst of war crimes may not be carried out with impunity for as long as the perpetrators live. That is more important than a 50%+ chance of conviction.

  • slappymcgroundout

    Mick, you need to classify the offense. Take the great State of Rhode Island:

    § 12-12-17 Statute of limitations. – (a) There shall be no statute of limitations for the following offenses: treason against the state, any homicide, arson, first degree arson, second degree arson, third degree arson, burglary, counterfeiting, forgery, robbery, rape, first degree sexual assault, first degree child molestation sexual assault, second degree child molestation sexual assault, bigamy, manufacturing, selling, distribution or possession with intent to manufacture, sell or distribute a controlled substance under the Uniform Controlled Substance Act, chapter 28 of title 21, or any other offense for which the maximum penalty provided is life imprisonment.

    (b) The statute of limitations for the following offenses shall be ten (10) years: larceny under § 11-41-2 (receiving stolen goods), § 11-41-3 (embezzlement and fraudulent conversion), § 11-41-4 (obtaining property by false pretenses or personation), § 11-41-11 (embezzlement by bank officer or employee), § 11-41-12 (fraudulent conversion by agent or factor), and § 11-41-13 (obtaining signature by false pretenses), or any larceny which is punishable as a felony; any violation of chapter 7 of title 11 (bribery); any violation of § 11-18-1 (giving false document to agent, employee, or public official); perjury; any violation of chapter 42 of title 11 (threats and extortion); any violation of chapter 15 of title 7 (racketeer influenced and corrupt organizations); any violation of chapter 57 of title 11 (racketeer violence); or any violation of chapter 36 of title 6 (antitrust law).

    (c) The statute of limitations for any other criminal offense shall be three (3) years unless a longer statute of limitations is otherwise provided for in the general laws.

    (d) Any person who participates in any offense, either as a principal accessory, or conspirator shall be subject to the same statute of limitations as if the person had committed the substantive offense.

    (e) The statute of limitations for any violation of chapter 18.9 of title 23 (refuse disposal), chapter 19 of title 23 (solid waste management corporation), chapter 19.1 of title 23 (hazardous waste management), chapter 12 of title 46 (water pollution), and chapter 13 of title 46 (public drinking water supply) shall be seven (7) years from the time that the facts constituting the offense or violation shall have become known to law enforcement authorities, unless a longer statute of limitations is otherwise provided for in the general laws.

    The great State of Florida:

    (1) A prosecution for a capital felony, a life felony, or a felony that resulted in a death may be commenced at any time. If the death penalty is held to be unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court, all crimes designated as capital felonies shall be considered life felonies for the purposes of this section, and prosecution for such crimes may be commenced at any time.

    (2) Except as otherwise provided in this section, prosecutions for other offenses are subject to the following periods of limitation:

    (a) A prosecution for a felony of the first degree must be commenced within 4 years after it is committed.

    (b) A prosecution for any other felony must be commenced within 3 years after it is committed.

    (c) A prosecution for a misdemeanor of the first degree must be commenced within 2 years after it is committed.

    (d) A prosecution for a misdemeanor of the second degree or a noncriminal violation must be commenced within 1 year after it is committed.

    (3) An offense is committed either when every element has occurred or, if a legislative purpose to prohibit a continuing course of conduct plainly appears, at the time when the course of conduct or the defendant’s complicity therein is terminated. Time starts to run on the day after the offense is committed.

    (4)
    (a) Prosecution on a charge on which the defendant has previously been arrested or served with a summons is commenced by the filing of an indictment, information, or other charging document.

    (b) A prosecution on a charge on which the defendant has not previously been arrested or served with a summons is commenced when either an indictment or information is filed, provided the capias, summons, or other process issued on such indictment or information is executed without unreasonable delay. In determining what is reasonable, inability to locate the defendant after diligent search or the defendant’s absence from the state shall be considered. The failure to execute process on or extradite a defendant in another state who has been charged by information or indictment with a crime in this state shall not constitute an unreasonable delay.

    (c) If, however, an indictment or information has been filed within the time period prescribed in this section and the indictment or information is dismissed or set aside because of a defect in its content or form after the time period has elapsed, the period for commencing prosecution shall be extended 3 months from the time the indictment or information is dismissed or set aside.

    (5) The period of limitation does not run during any time when the defendant is continuously absent from the state or has no reasonably ascertainable place of abode or work within the state. This provision shall not extend the period of limitation otherwise applicable by more than 3 years, but shall not be construed to limit the prosecution of a defendant who has been timely charged by indictment or information or other charging document and who has not been arrested due to his or her absence from this state or has not been extradited for prosecution from another state.

    (6) A prosecution for perjury in an official proceeding that relates to the prosecution of a capital felony may be commenced at any time.

    (7) A prosecution for a felony that resulted in injury to any person, when such felony arises from the use of a “destructive device,” as defined in s. 790.001, may be commenced within 10 years.

    (8) A prosecution for a felony violation of chapter 517 or s. 409.920 must be commenced within 5 years after the violation is committed.

    (9) A prosecution for a felony violation of chapter 403 must be commenced within 5 years after the date of discovery of the violation.

    (10) A prosecution for a felony violation of s. 825.102 or s. 825.103 must be commenced within 5 years after it is committed.

    (11) A prosecution for a felony violation of ss. 440.105 and 817.234 must be commenced within 5 years after the violation is committed.

    (12) If the period prescribed in subsection (2), subsection (8), subsection (9), subsection (10), or subsection (11) has expired, a prosecution may nevertheless be commenced for:
    (a) Any offense, a material element of which is either fraud or a breach of fiduciary obligation, within 1 year after discovery of the offense by an aggrieved party or by a person who has a legal duty to represent an aggrieved party and who is himself or herself not a party to the offense, but in no case shall this provision extend the period of limitation otherwise applicable by more than 3 years.

    (b) Any offense based upon misconduct in office by a public officer or employee at any time when the defendant is in public office or employment, within 2 years from the time he or she leaves public office or employment, or during any time permitted by any other part of this section, whichever time is greater.

    (13)
    (a) If the victim of a violation of s. 794.011, former s. 794.05, Florida Statutes 1995, s. 800.04, or s. 826.04 is under the age of 18, the applicable period of limitation, if any, does not begin to run until the victim has reached the age of 18 or the violation is reported to a law enforcement agency or other governmental agency, whichever occurs earlier. Such law enforcement agency or other governmental agency shall promptly report such allegation to the state attorney for the judicial circuit in which the alleged violation occurred. If the offense is a first or second degree felony violation of s. 794.011, and the offense is reported within 72 hours after its commission, the prosecution for such offense may be commenced at any time. This paragraph applies to any such offense except an offense the prosecution of which would have been barred by subsection (2) on or before December 31, 1984.

    (b) If the offense is a first degree felony violation of s. 794.011 and the victim was under 18 years of age at the time the offense was committed, a prosecution of the offense may be commenced at any time. This paragraph applies to any such offense except an offense the prosecution of which would have been barred by subsection (2) on or before October 1, 2003.

    (14) A prosecution for a first or second degree felony violation of s. 794.011, if the victim is 18 years of age or older at the time of the offense and the offense is reported to a law enforcement agency within 72 hours after commission of the offense, may be commenced at any time. If the offense is not reported within 72 hours after the commission of the offense, the prosecution must be commenced within the time periods prescribed in subsection (2).

    (15)
    (a) In addition to the time periods prescribed in this section, a prosecution for any of the following offenses may be commenced within 1 year after the date on which the identity of the accused is established, or should have been established by the exercise of due diligence, through the analysis of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) evidence, if a sufficient portion of the evidence collected at the time of the original investigation and tested for DNA is preserved and available for testing by the accused:

    1. An offense of sexual battery under chapter 794.

    2. A lewd or lascivious offense under s. 800.04 or s. 825.1025.

    (b) This subsection applies to any offense that is not otherwise barred from prosecution on or after July 1, 2004.

    I would assume that your nation has no statute of limitation on murder (most nations don’t). One of the reasons why Big Gerry isn’t fessing up to anything (see subsection (d) of the RI statute above providing that principal accessories and conspirators are as guilty as those substantively committing the crime). The whole oath, secret society thing might otherwise stop him, but maybe if some were prepared to provide a transaction and not mere use immunity, well, maybe then he might be a little more forthcoming regarding his activities over the last 3-4 decades. But until that transaction immunity is provided, mum is truly the word.