Belfast Telegraph

Doug Beattie MLA calls for British soldiers found guilty of Trouble's killings to be considered for royal pardons

A Unionist MLA has called for British soldiers found guilty of any killing during the Troubles which proved not to be premeditated to be considered for a pardon.

Upper Bann MLA Doug Beattie made the plea after the news that a former soldier is to be charged with manslaughter by gross negligence in connection with the shooting of Aidan McAnespie at an Army checkpoint in 1988.

Mr Beattie, a former soldier, said he was concerned that state forces who served during the Troubles are being treated differently from terrorist groups in legacy investigations.

“Evidence must be followed in all legacy cases – whether they involve soldiers, police, civilians, terrorists or politicians,” he said.

“This has been my clear stance from the very beginning but I am now becoming genuinely concerned that this seems only to apply to a small number of individuals and selective cases.

"This is a concern that is being perpetuated by the use of the OTR (On the Run) letters to delay and deny justice, the extensive use of Royal Prerogatives of Mercy – mainly for republican terrorists and the absence of an agreed legal definition of the term ‘collusion’ leaving it open to abuse.”

Mr Beattie called on the British government to release the list of all those who have previously received pardons during the Troubles and for it to make a commitment that any soldiers found guilty of any killing that is proved not to be premeditated to be considered for a pardon

He added: “The Government can do more. It can take active steps to stop those who use information provided by the government to begin a cottage industry in looking for any reason to bring soldiers to court knowing the taxpayer will pick up the bill and it should also release information that links politicians to terrorism and begin investigating their actions during the Troubles and since the Belfast Agreement, given the office they hold.

“It is time that justice was delivered for everyone and that justice must be seen to be balanced and fair.  I have no issue in the Director of Public Prosecutions making decisions to prosecute former solders if that’s where the evidence leads, just as long as exactly the same process applies equally to everyone, including those who were involved in terrorism.”

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