Northern Ireland news

Jim Allister labels lack of any charges from RHI Inquiry 'appalling'

Simon Hamilton will not be prosecuted for leaking emails while a minister

THE absence of any criminal charges for improper behaviour exposed by the RHI Inquiry has been described as "appalling" by TUV leader Jim Allister.

The North Antrim MLA and QC's remarks came after The Irish News revealed that former Stormont minister Simon Hamilton and the DUP's head of communications John Robinson will not be prosecuted for leaking emails to the media at the height of public outcry over the RHI scandal.

The leaks were designed to take the heat of their then DUP colleague Andrew Crawford, who over previous weeks had been the focus of intense media attention after The Irish News revealed his relatives’ interest in the poultry industry.

Mr Hamilton, now chief executive of Belfast Chamber, provided details of the episode while giving evidence to the RHI inquiry.

The inquiry's report described his behaviour as "a quite extraordinary and unacceptable step for an executive minister" but the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), which conducted a criminal probe on foot of a complaint, said there was insufficient evidence of an offence being committed.

Mr Allister said the lack of any prosecutions arising from revelations made during the inquiry underlined the need for tighter legislation.

He pointed to elements of the Functioning of Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, a private members bill he has lodged.

A clause would make unauthorised disclosure in office a criminal offence, punishable by up to two years in jail.

"It is quite appalling that the range of improper behaviour exposed in the RHI Inquiry will result in not a single prosecution – hence the need to fill this legislative void," he said.

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