The two Governments made an undertaking to advance schemes to deal with On the Runs (OTRs) in both jurisdictions at Weston Park in July 2001 and in the Joint Declaration of April 2003. Following the Weston Park Agreement, the British government set up an administrative scheme to deal with OTRs. While the Government was not directly involved in the establishment of this scheme, nor was a similar scheme established in this jurisdiction, we would see the administrative scheme for OTRs established by the British government as a natural progression from the agreement made at Weston Park.
On 27 February Prime Minister Cameron announced that he would appoint a judge to provide an independent review of the OTRs scheme in light of the errors identified in the John Downey case. The terms of reference of the review are:
- to produce a full public account of the operation and extent of the administrative scheme for OTRs
- to determine whether any letters sent through the scheme contained errors
- to make recommendations as necessary on this or related matters that are drawn to the attention of the inquiry
On 11 March, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers announced further details relating to the scheme. The review will be chaired by Lady Justice Hallett, with a view to completing the review by the end of May 2014, and no later than the end of June. It is intended that the review itself will be published. Lady Justice Hallett has made clear that she will be both independent and impartial in carrying out her task. This is, of course, an independent judge-led review.
I continue to maintain regular and ongoing contact with not only the First Minister and deputy First Minister but with the other Party Leaders in the context of the ongoing political talks. I will continue to emphasise the need for a successful conclusion to these talks, and the need to deal with the legacy of the past in a meaningful and comprehensive manner.