1.7 pm

Part of Northern Ireland (Offences) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee on 15th December 2005.

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Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

The Minister has emphasised the need to bring people back to Northern Ireland to face justice. The justice that they will face is, of course, not the justice that the victims ever wanted. It seems that the only defence for imposing no prison sentence on such people is that it is the only way to get them back into Northern Ireland. They will go through a charade, get a licence and walk free. I believe that the victims would much prefer those people to stay on the run and remain fugitives. After all, the Bill was designed and requested to allow people who are outside the jurisdiction to come back to Northern Ireland free from prosecution. That was the driving force. The Bill is a reward to those who cannot return to Northern Ireland because of the crimes they have committed or because they have escaped from prison and know that they would face a prison sentence if they came back. Given that they sought to avoid convictions for the crimes that they committed, it is only right that they should receive some degree of punishment.

It is important to note the inconsistency. The Minister has not mentioned the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people who might be covered by the cold case review, and who will not have to be brought back into the jurisdiction because they are already in the jurisdiction. If their cases were to come before the tribunal, why should they not serve a sentence on the grounds of consistency, given that some of their colleagues serve prison sentences even under the Belfast agreement?

This is an important amendment. The Minister cannot make a defence for opposing it, other than to state that the terrorists have demanded that they should not serve a day in prison. In order to give some recognition to victims, we in this Committee and in this House should not be prepared to accede to that demand.