No jail time proposal for Troubles offenders

By Julian O'Neill
BBC News NI Home Affairs Correspondent

  • Published
Derry bombImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
A public consultation on proposals to address the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland was launched in 2018

A new report on the vexed issue of dealing with Northern Ireland's past sets out a path to zero jail time for Troubles offences.

The idea is floated in an options paper by academics and a human rights group.

It has already been discussed among a wide range of people, including the government, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Army and republicans and loyalists.

Those behind the report say it does not represent an amnesty.

The paper analyses numerous legacy ideas and states the "best way forward" is implementing the 2014 Stormont House Agreement.

But it also presents two scenarios where convictions with zero jail time could be built in.

One involves the government simply amending 1998 legislation on sentencing, currently set at a two-year maximum for Troubles offences.

The other would scrap imprisonment for an individual who co-operates with a new body for information recovery for victim's families.

'Very big ask'

One of the report's authors, Queen's University Belfast academic Kieran McEvoy, accepts it would be "a very big ask" of those who lost loved ones.

He rejects that it amounts to an amnesty as there would have been "a proper investigation" and a trial.

It is though, he argues, "a pragmatic fix", across the board, to a dilemma created by the government's "determination that no soldier does a day in jail".

The paper is jointly authored by the Committee on the Administration of Justice.

It also states the government's recent legacy re-think, which would greatly limit the number of investigations, is "incompatible" with human rights obligations.