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MP calls for clarity over time limit on Northern Ireland legacy prosecutions


Concerns: Julian Lewis MP

Concerns: Julian Lewis MP

Concerns: Julian Lewis MP

A consultation on legacy issues in Northern Ireland that fails to consider a statute of limitations for those involved on both sides of the conflict would be a "retrograde step", it has been claimed.

Conservative MP Julian Lewis said ministers "can't always have your cake and eat it", as he again called for action on the issue to protect former soldiers from prosecution for their action during the Troubles.

Mr Lewis, chairman of the Defence select committee, was one of four MPs to write to the Prime Minister last year calling for an effective amnesty that would cover security force members and paramilitaries suspected of involvement in Troubles crimes.

Speaking in the Commons, he said legal advice given to his committee suggested a statute of limitations and a so-called "truth recovery process" for everybody "could indeed be entirely legitimate in the face of any form of international legal regime".

He added: "The purpose of my raising this yet again is because of my concern about one particular point. The previous Secretary of State for NI... He initiated a consultation exercise that is supposed to be going ahead.

"And he specifically said that the question of whether to introduce a statute of limitations on the basis which I have described would be an option included in that consultation exercise.

"I don't expect the Deputy Leader of the House to be able to answer this today, but I do expect him to take away my query, which is that I'm concerned that there have been suggestions that that option may not now be included in the consultation when it eventually happens after all.

"I think that would be a retrograde step. As we have seen over the issue of Brexit, sometimes you can't always have your cake and eat it.

"Sometimes you've got to decide whether you're going to keep your cake, or whether you're going to eat your cake, and you can't put off that point of making a direct choice forever.

"If that is true about Brexit, it is also true about this ongoing problem of the vulnerability of our armed forces to one-sided prosecution, and the Government needs to grip this matter."

Paul Maynard, the Commons Deputy Leader, said: "I have noted his specific query and I will make sure my officials bring this to the attention of the relevant department."

Belfast Telegraph