By Mark Thompson
Is the rule of law and justice really up for sale? Well the answer is yes when it comes to Peter Hain & Co
From the well-cushioned leather benches of the lofty House of Lords we have four former British appointees to the North, all unelected by the people here, now electing to tell us by letter what should happen regarding the past.
Direct-rulers who when the conflict – in particular collusion, extra-judicial killings and use of lethal force – was at its height, publicly defended state actions and denied collusion. They also denied effective investigations into these atrocities.
Direct rulers that would have been regularly appraised of, and sanctioned, the role of agents and informers – people like Freddie Scappaticci, Brian Nelson, Mark Haddock, Gary Haggarty, John White and numerous others –who were all well paid from the public purse.
Take for example Haggarty who was involved in five murders, five attempted murders and five conspiracies. He was given a significantly reduced sentence in return for evidence. He was relocated and a house in England purchased for him, again from the public purse. Haddock received huge financial payments that increased the more he killed, up to £80,000. And the victims of these crimes are told there won’t be prosecutions, refusing to act on Haggarty’s evidence. Unusual silences here about gunmen and bombers from the usual suspects who ensured Eames/Bradley was binned.
Scappaticci is another example. The Criminal Case Review Commission overturned the convictions of everyone sentenced in relation to the ‘kidnapping and interrogation’ of the agent Sandy Lynch after viewing ‘Annex A’ in the case which was withheld during the original trial. It was the envelope containing the details of the agents involved including Scappaticci. Rather that reveal the contents the state paid out millions in compensation.
When appointed to the North Peter Hain didn’t provide a pension to the seriously injured. In fact he challenged countless compensation claims by victims in the courts. He refused an inquiry into the murder of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane who just happened to be working on behalf of victims. Hain also had to backtrack on his amnesty bill. All of which hardly makes him a credible voice in this debate.
And today these former appointees publish a letter saying that we should just give some money to victims rather than conducting investigations. Of course this happens just as we discuss the mechanisms designed to provide for proper independent investigations – something they all opposed during their tenure.
Me thinks this is not so much about looking after the ‘poor victims’ and much more about keeping a lid on the past as we near a process that could actually deliver. Vested interest – self-interest – comes to mind and they kinda reveal their hand too raising the HET and playing the ‘poor old soldiers’ card.
There are clear legal obligations on the UK concerning both investigations and reparations. Both should happen. They are not divisible. Victims have been treated appallingly. It’s time for truth – it’s time for reparations.
The rule of law cannot be cherry-picked or purchased away.