Belfast Telegraph

Amendment to protect Northern Ireland veterans 'dangerous'

By Dan O'Donoghue

A failed bid to strengthen legal protections for veterans who served in Northern Ireland has been dubbed "dangerous" by the Northern Ireland Secretary.

Karen Bradley told Tory backbenchers, who were calling for the introduction of a statute of limitations, that the move would "undermine the rule of law".

Her remarks came amid pressure from more than 30 Tory MPs, led by former defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon, to introduce a 20-year time limit for reopening cases involving former members of the armed forces who served in Northern Ireland.

Sir Michael had tabled an amendment to the Northern Ireland Budget (No 2) Bill which aims to stop public money being used to fund historical prosecutions of former service personnel in Northern Ireland. He withdrew it "reluctantly" late last night.

Speaking during the Bill's committee stage, Sir Michael said: "Parliament now needs to draw a line."

However, Ms Bradley urged Sir Michael to withdraw his amendment, telling him the Bill was "not the right vehicle" for it.

She said: "The Government cannot accept this amendment because it does undermine the rule of law.

"The effect of the amendment would be to remove the ability of the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland to prosecute former soldiers for the next 12 months, even in circumstances when new evidence has come to light which the original investigation could not have considered and which the prosecution believed could lead to a conviction."

Earlier, during defence questions in the Commons, Tory former minister Sir Henry Bellingham asked Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson if he would bring forward legislative proposals for a statute of limitations.

Mr Williamson said he had "established a dedicated team within the Ministry of Defence to consider this issue and to advise on the way forward".

Belfast Telegraph

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