Hutchinson leaves under a cloud but he has an obvious point

 For all the criticisms made against him, Al Hutchinson ends his controversial period  as Police Ombudsman admitting the obvious, that not all Troubles cases can be investigated and calling for a “limited” amnesty.

He said that any amnesties would be conditional and that victims should be the driving force in making decisions on individual cases.

What he means by “driving force” and “conditional” isn’t clear from the web version of a Radio Ulster Sunday Sequence interview. “Conditional” presumably means some acknowledgment of guilt. But putting reliance on victims raises huge problems of definition and arbitrary justice. An amnesty of whatever kind can only be called as a matter of wider public interest, and not imposed as a burden on any type of victim. Naturally enough, victims commissioners are unlikely to agree. Perhaps this might change when all the investigations of the Historical Enquiries Team have reached some sort of conclusion.  Or will this close only a chapter and not the whole book?  I support  the idea of a statute of limitations, not necessarily because it would provoke a flood of confessions ( though it might encourage some) but because it would make some disclosure easier and give the public as a whole a better sense that we have got to the end of one road, while opening the way to compiling clearer narratives of what happened in many cases.         



Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London