NI: Public Prosecution Service rejects bias allegations

Sir Gerald Howarth, MP for Aldershot
Sir Gerald Howarth, MP for Aldershot

The Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland (PPS) has firmly rejected accusations of bias made by a Conservative MP.

Sir Gerald Howarth, MP for Aldershot, used parliamentary privilege to fire a shot at what he called “the Sinn Féin-supporting Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland” during a debate on Northern Ireland.

He claimed that the PPS had pre-emptively threatened newsdesks with legal action if they questioned its impartiality.

Sir Gerald also called on Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire to “protect the interests of former British soldiers” who are facing prosecution for murders during The Troubles.

Mr Brokenshire, responding, said he did have “some concerns about imbalance within the system, which is why I believe it is right that we move forward with the Stormont House agreement and the legacy bodies that are set up there”.

However, he added: “I will not comment on any individual decisions. Indeed, justice is devolved in Northern Ireland. It is independent, and has its own processes that remain in place in an independent way.

“I hear clearly his very general and very firm point on balance within the overall system, which is something that I am very keen to address.”

Responding to the comments, a spokesperson for the PPS said: “The Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland is wholly independent of all political parties and the political system. As such, we would never seek to influence political debate on any subject in any way.

“Equally, we must take all appropriate steps to ensure that our decision-making processes are protected from political influence from any source.

“This is necessary both to safeguard the integrity of prosecutorial decision making within the wider criminal justice system and to ensure that PPS staff are able to carry out difficult but important functions strictly in accordance with applicable law and the code for prosecutors.

“We are aware of Mr Howarth’s political viewpoint in relation to the prosecution of cases involving soldiers, which is not enshrined in law in the UK.

“The Public Prosecution Service only applies the law as it currently stands in Northern Ireland and does so without fear, favour or prejudice.”

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