End 'macabre charade' of investigating Troubles soldiers: Ex-British Army chief
The former head of the British Army has urged the Government to put a stop to the "macabre charade" that could see Northern Ireland veterans facing legal action.
Lord Bramall said it was "absurd and grossly unfair" that soldiers who took part in the events of Bloody Sunday in 1972 should be questioned by police now - and accused the Police Service of Northern Ireland of "harrying" veterans in a "desperate attempt to bring criminal charges".
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Lord Bramall, who served as Chief of the General Staff between 1979 and 1982, said he had warned against such action in a House of Commons speech eight years ago.
He said: "It is... bewildering that the Government has somehow allowed the Northern Ireland Police Service to resurrect the whole affair and to introduce this extremely lengthy and slow-moving questioning under caution of British soldiers."
He said the questioning "greatly abuses these hapless soldiers, who should not have been there in the first place", adding: "Whatever their shortcomings, they were trying to do their duty as they thought fit in aid of the civil power, as the Army has generally done most successfully over so many years.
"In the interests of justice, fair play and even-handedness, the Government must, by whatever means, put a stop at once to this macabre charade."
His comments come after the new head of the armed forces spoke out about Northern Ireland veterans being "chased by people making vexatious claims" of wrongdoing, vowing: "That will not happen on my watch."
Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Nick Carter praised the "remarkable job" done by the British Army in Northern Ireland and said groundless allegations against soldiers risked undermining the Army's fighting spirit.
He promised that soldiers facing any investigation would be looked after "to the best of our ability".
MPs have called on the Government to introduce a statute of limitations to end what they claim is a "witch hunt" against members of the armed forces.
A consultation document issued by Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley on dealing with the legacy of the Troubles does not include provision for a statute of limitations, to the anger of many Conservative MPs.
But Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has pledged to look at "all options" to protect veterans from legacy investigations amid fears Second World War campaign survivors could be targeted.
Belfast Telegraph Digital