The Ulster Unionist Party’s Justice Spokesperson, Doug Beattie MC MLA, has said that political parties and the Justice Department need to work to end the category of ‘politically motivated offender’ that is claimed by people convicted of terrorist offences.
Doug Beattie MC MLA said:
“21 years after the Belfast Agreement, it is surely high time that we as a society looked at the rationale as to why the title of Politically Motivated Offender (PMO) is still being used.
“If - and I sincerely hope this is the case - the PSNI catch the people who murdered Lyra McKee, the reality is that they will claim that the murder was politically motivated. This would be an obscene claim yet they are likely to be granted the title of PMO and placed into a separated prison regime where they will receive special treatment compared to the rest of those colloquially called ‘common criminals’. At the end of their sentence or when they are allowed out on licence they will re-enter society with that kudos of having been imprisoned for their political beliefs. This is an utterly obscene scenario, yet it is one which politicians have allowed to happen.
“In December 2016 I brought forward a motion in the Assembly to end the separated prison regime and this would also have ended PMO status. I understood the legacy of the Troubles meant that this process would take a number of years to be implemented in full. In fact, I proposed a period of 8 years to allow for the ending of anyone being placed in a separated regime and then finally closing the separated wings completely.
“Unfortunately some political parties - Sinn Fein and the DUP, the two largest parties that could have made this a reality - said no. As a consequence, we now have drug dealers, extortionists and pimps claiming their crimes are politically motivated and they now reside in a separated regime.
“Lyra McKee was murdered, nothing more nothing less. It was a despicable crime and has rightly attracted huge public revulsion. The perpetrator should be denied the title of politically motivated offender, and political parties who continue to either support or facilitate the situation whereby crimes are designated as being politically motivated, should be challenged. 21 years on from the Belfast Agreement, that is surely not too much to ask.”