Belfast Telegraph

Boris Johnson vows to introduce legislation to protect Northern Ireland military veterans from 'unfair prosecution'

Boris Johnson at the State Opening of Parliament (House of Commons/PA)
Boris Johnson at the State Opening of Parliament (House of Commons/PA)

By Richard Wheeler, PA Parliamentary Editor

Boris Johnson has insisted he is committed to protecting British military veterans from "unfair prosecution".

The Prime Minister's pledge to bring forward legislation came amid claims from a DUP MP that a Whitehall department is trying to "placate" Sinn Fein rather than protect soldiers who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

Mr Johnson did not outline a timetable and veterans minister Johnny Mercer, when pressed on Twitter about when it will occur given successive governments have failed to offer timings, replied: "On my watch."

Conservative former Army officer Bob Stewart, who completed seven tours of Northern Ireland, pressed Mr Johnson on the matter during the Queen's Speech debate.

He also referred to the case of Dennis Hutchings, who has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder of a man with learning difficulties during the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Stewart said: "There was no mention in the Queen's Speech about looking after our veteran soldiers from Northern Ireland and I know (Mr Johnson) intends to do that, so what are we going to do about it because it's urgent in the case of Dennis Hutchings?"

Mr Johnson replied: "We will be bringing forward legislation to protect serving and former serving personnel.

"The consultation on that matter has just come to an end."

He later told MPs: "This Government understands that no-one can escape justice for a crime that they have committed.

"But we also understand that there should be no unfair prosecution when no new evidence has been produced."

DUP MP Sammy Wilson added: "Could he give us an assurance that the legislation which he intends to introduce to protect those members of the armed forces, in keeping with his one nation philosophy, will include those who served in Northern Ireland and he will not be detracted from that by the efforts of the Northern Ireland Office - who have tried to placate Sinn Fein rather than protect soldiers?"

Mr Johnson repeated his earlier remarks in response.

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