Belfast Telegraph

Report calls for end to pursuit of veterans over Troubles killings

The then-Prime Minister David Cameron issued a public apology in the House of Commons, describing the massacre as
The then-Prime Minister David Cameron issued a public apology in the House of Commons, describing the massacre as "unjustified and unjustifiable"
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

The next Prime Minister should consider new laws to quash all investigations, inquests and prosecutions into deaths linked to the Troubles, a right-wing think tank has said.

The recommendation was made in a report published to coincide with Armed Forces Day by Policy Exchange, which says it is the responsibility of Government to "act urgently to protect UK troops" from what it calls "the ongoing exposure to legal risk and to unfair legal processes".

In relation to historical investigations here, the report urged Parliament to amend the Human Rights Act 1998 to specify that it does not apply to any death before the Act came into force in October 2000.

It called on politicians to consider legislation "that would draw a clear line under the past, bringing to an end all ongoing investigations, inquests and prosecutions into Troubles-related deaths".

And it called on the Government to "enact a robust statute of limitations, which would prevent investigation into or prosecution of allegations unless a court is satisfied that there is compelling new evidence and that investigation or prosecution would be in the interests of justice".

An ex-paratrooper is expected to appear in court here in August charged with the murders of James Wray and William McKinney on Bloody Sunday.

'Soldier F' is also charged with the attempted murder of four other people.

The Saville Inquiry ruled in 2010 that the 13 civil rights protesters killed on Bloody Sunday were all innocent and died after the Parachute Regiment "lost control".

The then-Prime Minister David Cameron issued a public apology in the House of Commons, describing the massacre as "unjustified and unjustifiable".

In another high-profile case, 78-year-old former soldier Dennis Hutchings is facing trial over the 1974 death of John Pat Cunningham.

Mr Cunningham (27), a vulnerable adult with a mental age of between six and 10 years, and with a fear of people in uniform, was shot in the back as he ran from soldiers in a field in Benburb in Co Tyrone.

The report claims "those who served - or who serve still - in the nation's defence have not been adequately protected".

"It is certainly true that the status quo provides some protection to the terrorists and certainly encourages disproportionate attention to deaths involving the military or police," it says.

Commenting on the report, former Defence Minister Gavin Williamson MP said that "as well as our gratitude, soldiers deserve our protection - including from malicious legal claims and repeated investigations".

"The scales have tipped. Personnel and veterans have been hounded in the courts," he claimed.

The report was welcomed by both Tory leadership candidates.

Boris Johnson said: "I have long argued the way some service personnel and veterans have been persecuted in our judicial system turns the stomach."

Jeremy Hunt said: "We owe it to our forces and veterans to resolve these issues with all possible speed."

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