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Introducing veterans Bill this week is a personal milestone – Johnny Mercer

The veterans minister made the comment ahead of the introduction of the Bill designed to protect former soldiers from ‘vexatious’ litigation.

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Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer (PA)

Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer (PA)

Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer (PA)

Veterans minister Johnny Mercer has described introducing a Bill designed to protect former soldiers from “vexatious” litigation this week as his “personal milestone”.

The prosecution of former service personnel prompted large scale protests across the UK.

On Armistice Day, the Tories promised that if they won the election they would change the law to protect veterans from vexatious legal claims and prosecutions against British soldiers accused of wrongdoing on the battlefield.

This includes against allegations of abuse or unlawful killing.

However the proposed Bill has been opposed by some politicians as well as relatives of those killed.

Speaking in the House of Commons last week Alliance MP Stephen Farry (North Down) raised concerns that the proposal “undermines the criminal justice system”.

Mr Mercer is due to introduce the Bill at the House of Commons on Wednesday, and described the prospect as a “personal milestone for me”, adding “it’s taken a while”.

Protesters at a military veterans’ rally at Horse Guards Parade in London
Protesters at a military veterans’ rally at Horse Guards Parade in London (Lauren Hurley/PA)

He said the Bill aims to “start ending the chronic injustice of repeated and vexatious claims against our service personnel”.

However which veterans will be covered by the Bill has been queried.

On Monday, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace indicated that the Veterans Protections Bill will not cover personnel who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

Former soldier Dennis Hutchings claimed the public has been misled over the Bill.

Hutchings, from Cawsand in Cornwall, a former member of the Life Guards regiment, is facing charges of attempted murder and attempted grievous bodily harm with intent.

Dennis Hutchings court case
Former British soldier Dennis Hutchings is challenging government over their “failure” to protect veterans. (PA)

The 78-year-old has pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham in Co Tyrone in 1974.

Hutchings, who is on dialysis twice a week for renal failure, said he has been advised to self-isolate because of Covid-19. His trial may take place over Skype, Belfast Crown Court heard last week.

He is set to launch a judicial review against the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland over election promises to give veterans who served in the Troubles “the protection they deserve” and clarify what protections veterans will be given from what he terms “unjust prosecutions”.

Matthew Jury, from Hutchings’ legal team, claims veterans are being “failed” by the Government.

“While politicians have kept telling veterans not to worry, trust in them, all is in hand, it is clear that they cannot do anything to help the likes of Dennis and others,” he said.

“Instead of admitting this they have delayed matters until it may be too late, dismissed his concerns and refused to meet with his representatives to try and resolve this issue.

“The Government and its politicians have failed them.

“It may be too late for Dennis but he hopes he can act in time to ensure others like him don’t suffer the same ordeal.”

The British Government has repeatedly said there will be no Army prosecutions without new evidence.

PA