Northern Ireland Secretary Indicates Convicted Northern Ireland Veterans Eligible For Early Release Scheme

Posted on March 14, 2019

Karen Bradley said “anyone” convicted of such an offence and serving their sentence in Northern Ireland would be covered by the terms of the controversial element of the 1998 Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement, which enabled hundreds to walk free on licence after serving just two years behind bars. Her answer to a parliamentary question comes ahead of an expected announcement by prosecutors on whether soldiers involved in the Bloody Sunday killings in Londonderry will face court action. It comes a week after Mrs Bradley faced calls to resign as Northern Ireland Secretary after comments she made about the Troubles.

The early release scheme, which saw around 500 loyalist and republican paramilitaries walk free from prison, currently would not include Bloody Sunday, as it only covers offences committed between 1973 and 1998.

However, the Government wants to extend the early release scheme to cover offences committed before 1973, changing the start date to January 1968. If it becomes law, anyone convicted of an offence related to Bloody Sunday, which took place in January 1972, would be covered by the early release scheme. Those proposals, which have been subject to a recent public consultation, would also extend the provision to those serving sentences in Great Britain. In the past there has been debate on whether the early release scheme was meant to include convicted security force members.

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