Northern Ireland

Stakeknife probe chief Jon Boutcher criticises Troubles amnesty plan

Head of Operation Kenova Jon Boutcher. Picture by Mal McCann.
Head of Operation Kenova Jon Boutcher. Picture by Mal McCann. Head of Operation Kenova Jon Boutcher. Picture by Mal McCann.

A FORMER English police chief currently heading up a series of legacy investigations has described British government plans for a Troubles amnesty as a "miscalculation".

Operation Kenova head Jon Boutcher was speaking after the British government published proposals to introduce a statute of limitations, and end civil cases and inquests linked to the Troubles.

If approved, the shocking proposals will leave victims and survivors with absolutely no judicial recourse.

The plans have caused anger and dismay to those impacted by the Troubles across all communities.

Former Bedfordshire Police chief Jon Boutcher, who heads up Operation Kenova, last night voiced his concerns at the plans.

Operation Kenova is currently carrying out three historical investigations and one review.

He described the British government's proposals as a "miscalculation".

"This is a clear agenda from a manifesto from the Conservative government to protect veterans, it is I think a miscalculation to apply a statute of limitations in the name of the veterans," he said.

He believes that "in a way" the British government "are proposing Kenova but no prosecutions".

"I do not believe it is the right thing to do in accordance with our rule of law for these families as would be the case for my family in England, a family in Scotland, or family in Wales," he said.

"If an offence occurred during this period and evidence came to light (about) those responsible, they would be prosecuted.

"Why would we not prosecute in Northern Ireland?"

The top investigator suggested the proposed statute of limitations may not exist in other areas of investigation.

"And if this was a different genre of crime, it was international terrorism, it was Al Qaeda, it was Islamic State, can you imagine the position of having a statute of limitations, can we comprehend that?"

He said the relatives of people killed feel as if the value of their lives is being reduced.

"(The families) I have spoken to are sensible and realistic about the prospect of prosecutions, they know they would be incredibly rare," he said.

"But to take away the chance of a prosecution, to almost diminish, lower the value of the life of their loved on, which is how this would feel to me and how it has been explained to me, this feels to them.

"And that includes military families, it includes police families, very much so."

He spoke of his wish that those behind the proposals will take stock of the reaction.

"I would hope that these proposals are engaged upon and that the people who have put them forward listen to everybody who has responded so far with almost no exception to say that this would be the wrong thing to do."

Operation Kenova is currently carrying out three historical investigations, which include looking at the activities of the agent known as Stakeknife and an IRA bomb attack that claimed the lives of three RUC men in near Lurgan in Co Armagh in 1982.

Mr Boutcher has now revealed that his team is "very much towards the end of the Stakeknife investigation, and the investigation into the murder of the three police officers".

"Those two particular investigations are the subject of 31 files to the Public Prosecution Service, that's 50,000 pages of evidence," he said.

"Of course prosecutions that may fall from those files and decision being taken may be stopped but the families will get to know what happened."