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MP slams 'immoral' Troubles probes and backs time limit call

By PA Reporters

A former Tory Defence Minister said historic investigations into British soldiers over Troubles deaths were "absolutely immoral" as he yesterday backed a time limit for prosecutions.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Sir Gerald Howarth MP said it was unacceptable that veterans who fought in the "filthy war" here faced being dragged from their beds in dawn raids for questioning.

DUP defence spokesman Sir Jeffrey Donaldson earlier urged ministers to consider a statute of limitation for British veterans in Northern Ireland.

Sir Gerald said: "I think it is absolutely immoral that those men who fought in that filthy war, wearing the Queen's uniform, facing an enemy wearing civilian clothes, lurking in the shadows amongst a civilian population, having done their best for their country are now being dragged from their beds at six o'clock in the morning in dawn raids and being dragged off to Northern Ireland.

"I think it's unacceptable. This is not a matter simply for the Police Service of Northern Ireland or the prosecuting authorities, it's a matter for ministers. I strongly endorse the case made for a statutory limitation."

Sir Jeffrey said that men and women who served here were "now waiting for the knock on the door" and claimed there was too much focus on investigating the actions of the armed forces and police during the Troubles, instead of on the actions of terrorists.

"I recognise no one is above the law, but when cases have been investigated in some cases not just once, but twice previously, and when the men and women who served our country have been exonerated, only to find years later that those cases are being reopened, then I think there is something wrong," Sir Jeffrey stressed.

Defence minister Mark Lancaster said: "Whilst this Government firmly believes in upholding the rule of law, we are concerned investigations into Northern Ireland's past focus almost entirely on former police officers and soldiers.

"This is wrong and does not reflect the fact that the overwhelming majority of those who served did so with great bravery.

"This is why the Defence and Northern Ireland Secretaries are working together to ensure that veterans are not unfairly treated or disproportionately investigated compared to others."

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