Defence Secretary Ben Wallace: 'No prosecutions for Troubles veterans without new evidence'
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said no Troubles veterans should be prosecuted unless there is new evidence.
Mr Wallace, who served in the British Army, was speaking after an event marking the 50th anniversary of Operation Banner, when troops were first deployed in Northern Ireland.
Speaking to the BBC, he said that "99.9%" of those who served had obeyed that law, but that it is important to "to deal with new evidence when it's presented if there is an allegation of breaking the law".
"No one is above the law... The British Army uphold British values, which is the rule of law, and that's what we stand for," he said.
"That's why are better than the terrorists."
Mr Wallace, who was appointed Secretary of State for Defence in July by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said the Ministry of Defence should "properly support" ex-soldiers and ensure they are not "treated badly".
"We've got to treat our veterans properly," he added.
"We're not going to have this endless fishing inquest circle that's gone round and round in circles and not actually fixed the problem."
He added veterans should not get "knocks in the middle of the night when they are in their 70s" and "pose no risk to anybody else".
The Defence Secretary's comments come ahead of a court appearance next month of an ex-paratrooper known as Soldier F, who stands accused of two murders and four attempted murders committed on Bloody Sunday.
Mr Wallace's statements, however, have been criticised by the victims' group Relatives for Justice.
Spokesperson Andree Murphy said: "By creating this emphasis on military veterans what has happened is that the debate has become almost intractable.
"We need to retreat back into looking at principles of rule of law; we need to look at principles of human rights and see the obligations of the British government.
"From there we can start to deliver to victims, no matter who they were affected by."
Sinn Fein victims and legacy spokesperson Linda Dillon said Ben Wallace's words were "an insult to grieving families".
“As an ex-British Army officer, Ben Wallace’s comments are perhaps not surprising but he is also a government minister and therefore has an obligation to ensure that all are treated equally under the law," she said.
“Instead, with these comments he is again supporting inequality in the law by suggesting that former British soldiers should be exempt from justice.
“He was supported in this by the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson whose party continues to peddle the myth that the legacy process is weighted against former British soldiers.
“That is an insult to the grieving families of those murdered by the British State and it’s proxies in loyalist death squads."
Belfast Telegraph Digital