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UK Government to reveal Troubles amnesty plan for soldiers and paramilitaries – report

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA

Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA

PA

Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA

Boris Johnson is expected to announce an amnesty from prosecution for soldiers who served during the Troubles, it has been reported

It is understood the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State Brandon Lewis are preparing to set out proposals for a statute of limitations on prosecutions for crimes committed during the Troubles, the Sunday Telegraph has reported. 

The plans are also expected to apply to republican paramilitaries.

Last month during the British-Irish intergovernmental conference, Mr Lewis said London and Dublin planned to work together to find a way forward on the issue.

He also expressed a desire to bring forward legislation by the Westminster summer recess on July 22.

Under the plans, it is thought further trials linked to the Troubles will be blocked, with a move towards a “truth and reconciliation” approach in the vein of that which was set up in South Africa after the end of apartheid.

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According to the Sunday Telegraph, the proposed statute of limitations will go further than measures announced in the Overseas Operations Bill earlier this year, which said Troubles veterans could still be prosecuted providing there was “new, compelling evidence” to present to a jury.

Julian Lewis, the former chairman of the Commons defence committee, said the proposals “must apply to all sides – service personnel, police, loyalists and nationalists alike”.

He said: “This does not set law-breakers on the same level as the forces of law and order, any more than the fact that the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and sentencing act which followed it – limiting prison sentences arising out of the Troubles – already does... It would be a clear and hard-headed assessment of where we actually are.

“I believe it would give individuals and Northern Ireland’s society, as a whole, the best opportunity of moving on from the past.”

The approach from the UK Government comes after it was announced that a move to halt the prosecution of an ex-soldier for two deaths on Bloody Sunday is set to be delayed to facilitate a legal challenge against the decision.

Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service had been due to withdraw proceedings against Soldier F at Derry Magistrates’ Court on Friday.

The PPS has said it will now ask for that hearing to be adjourned, after a brother of one of the victims secured judicial permission to challenge the prosecutors’ decision at a High Court hearing in the autumn.

The veteran has been facing charges of murdering James Wray and William McKinney on Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in January 30 1972, when troops opened fire on civil rights demonstrators in the city’s Bogside, killing 13 people.

The former paratrooper was also accused of the attempted murders of Patrick O’Donnell, Joseph Friel, Joe Mahon and Michael Quinn.

He faced a further supporting charge of the attempted murder of a person or persons unknown on the day in Derry.

The prosecution of another veteran, Soldier B, for the murder of 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty in Derry later in 1972, will also not proceed, the PPS said.

The decisions came after the PPS reviewed the cases in light of a recent court ruling that caused the collapse of another Troubles murder trial involving two military veterans.

The Crown cases against both Soldier F and Soldier B hinged on evidence of a similar nature to that which was ruled inadmissible in April’s trial of Soldier A and Soldier C for the 1972 murder of Official IRA leader Joe McCann in Belfast.


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