Soldiers must be compensated for false war crime claims - Lord Dannatt
Soldiers falsely accused of war crimes and other wrongdoing in foreign conflicts should get financial compensation once cleared, a former head of the British Army has said.
Lord Dannatt said that "wholesale, fallacious accusations" were damaging soldiers' moral and the fighting ability of British forces worried they may face future prosecution.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph he said the controversial Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), which is investigating allegations against UK forces during the conflict, should be wound down.
It came the day after Prime Minister Theresa may said she was planning to take further action to stop law firms making vexatious claims against British troops over allegations of abuse while serving in Iraq.
Lord Dannatt, who as General Richard Dannatt was chief of the defence staff between 2006 and 2009, told the Telegraph: "To have these wide-ranging inquiries into what are repeatedly turning out to be wholesale, fallacious accusations is undermining for morale and the Army's effectiveness.
"In the future soldiers will feel inhibited in doing what they think is right for fear of retrospective investigation, and that is incredibly dangerous."
He also highlighted the case of Rachel Webster, a British Army officer reportedly paid compensation by the MoD after being physically restrained when being arrested by IHAT.
He said: "When people like Rachel Webster were clearly wronged it has to be made right. An apology is one thing but if appropriate there must be financial compensation."
He added: "The hundreds of allegations put forward by certain legal firms against soldiers in Iraq simply do not add up; it's an unjustifiable overreaction for fear of the European Court of Human Rights.
"One of the Army's six core values is 'respect for others' - to say we serially ignored that is utterly disrespectful."
Mrs May said on Thursday that new proposals would be announced in the next few days to stop law firms "trying to impugn the name" of the armed forces.
On a visit to an army base at Bulford, Wiltshire, she said: "What we know is if there are credible allegations of criminal behaviour, of course those should be properly investigated but what we need to take action on, and what we have taken action on already, is this issue of vexatious claims.
"The issue of those legal firms that are trying to impugn the name of our armed forces.
"We have already taken action to deal with that and we are looking at seeing what we can do and I am hoping we will be able to announce some further steps in the next few days.
"We have taken action and we are looking at the whole issue of the 'no win, no fee' firms who are trying to create this industry of making claims against our armed forces.
"We need to ensure that when the men and women of our armed forces go out there on our behalf, willing to sacrifice themselves for our safety and for our defence, that they have our full confidence and backing in doing that and that's what we will give them."