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Republicans warned over 'on the run' letters

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has said republicans suspected of crimes committed during the Troubles should "no longer draw comfort" from letters informing them that police were no longer pursuing them.

The minister told a Westminster committee that she had to clarify the status of the so-called 'letters of comfort' after a judge-led review called their accuracy into question.

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What are 'letters of comfort'?

  • Letters were given to almost 190 republicans suspected of crimes who had fled Northern Ireland
  • They gave assurances that their recipients were not wanted by police
  • The system was agreed between the last Labour administration and Sinn Fein from 2000
  • In February, a case against 62-year-old John Downey fell apart when it emerged he had been given a letter in error
  • In July, a judge-led inquiry found they were systematically flawed in operation but not unlawful in principle
  • Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has promised to clarify their status in the coming days

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