Terrorists granted immunity under controversial Troubles legacy and reconciliation legislation should be blocked from profiting from their actions, the shadow Northern Ireland secretary has said.
Peter Kyle warned the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill would allow perpetrators to “live in freedom” and “empower” them to release books which seek to “justify the mayhem and senseless killings” they carried out.
He spoke in support of amendment 114, which seeks to prevent a person who is granted immunity under the legislation from “profiting from the conduct which they received immunity for”.
Proposals before MPs seek to establish a new information retrieval body to review deaths and other harmful conduct within the Troubles – defined as the period from January 1 1966 to April 10 1998.
The Bill will offer immunity to people who are deemed to have co-operated with the information retrieval body, although criminal prosecutions could still take place.
Mr Kyle said the legislation must offer “greater benefits to the victims than it does to perpetrators of terror”, telling the Commons: “There is nothing stopping people from then using their immunity to write down their own history of their crimes and then profiting from them.
“Once a perpetrator has been granted immunity, I can’t see any limits on what they can do with it.
“Nothing to stop terrorists writing books and seeking to justify the mayhem and senseless killings they have carried out.
“Undoubtedly, this would retraumatise victims. This is not idle speculation but a concern victims have raised with me directly.
“Not only would this Bill allow perpetrators to live in freedom, it will empower them to tell their own version of events, in their own names, without the fear of prosecution.”
Conservative former minister Johnny Mercer said he understood the Government is involved in talks to ensure those who receive immunity under the Bill cannot “glorify” terrorism.
He said: “We need to be very, very careful that these cowards who – like I’ve said before – got up in the morning to murder women and children for their political aims, that they are given absolutely no opportunity to glorify what they did, and just really double down and make sure there is no gap in the legislation to make sure these people can’t take advantage of their crimes.”
Asked if he would support the DUP’s amendments linked to preventing glorification, Mr Mercer said: “As I understand it there are conversations going on around how that objective can be achieved.”
He added: “It has to be crafted in the correct way and as I understand it the Government ministers are doing that with the benches opposite and will make sure there is no gap in that legislation.”
The DUP’s new clause four makes “having received immunity under this Bill an aggravating factor in sentencing for the offence of glorifying terrorism”.
Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns earlier said the Government wants to deliver a system that focuses on “effective information recovery and reconciliation measures, getting as much information to as many families as possible”.
Speaking on day two of committee stage, Mr Burns said: “Clause 33 of the Bill prevents criminal investigations into any Troubles-related offence to be initiated or continued on or after the day on which this clause enters into force.
“The prohibition does not apply to the ICRIR (Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery). This clause ensures that the commission becomes the sole body able and responsible for conducting criminal investigations into Troubles-related deaths and serious injuries.
“Future prosecutions will remain a possibility for those involved in offences connected to a death or a serious injury if they do not actively come forward to seek immunity, or do not co-operate sufficiently with the information recovery process.”
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said at “every single turn” the UK Government has “tried to stop information going into the hands of those people who tried to find out the truth and that includes victims, who we’re told are at the very centre of this”.
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