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Falklands hero Weston describes legal pursuit of ex-soldiers ‘a betrayal of trust’

Simon Weston receives a medal from The Duke of Edinburgh
Simon Weston receives a medal from The Duke of Edinburgh
Ivan Little

By Ivan Little

Falklands war veteran Simon Weston has accused the Government of stabbing former troops who served here in the back.

He criticised what he described as the "appalling betrayal" of ex-soldiers who face prosecution over historic killings during the Troubles.

The 57-year-old Welshman, who was severely burned in a bomb attack by the Argentinians in 1982, said that instead of prosecutions, Westminster should be backing ex-soldiers "to the hilt".

He added: "These ex-soldiers did their jobs at the behest of the British Government who shouldn't be turning around like cowards and leaving them on their own. That is wrong on every count."

Mr Weston was speaking at the opening of a new support facility for former RUC and military veterans in Fermanagh yesterday. He was horrifically injured on board the Sir Galahad in 1982 and is involved in service veterans' charities.

He claimed that a number of the veterans, including a former paratrooper who is to be charged in relation to Bloody Sunday, were being made "scapegoats".

And he said that hundreds of ex-soldiers were now terrified that the authorities would follow up any convictions with more prosecutions and investigations.

He said the decision to bring soldiers to court was the "worst possible recruitment drive for the British armed forces".

"That type of betrayal just cannot be acceptable," added Mr Weston, who claimed that there seemed to be two different types of justice in Northern Ireland: "One for the armed services and one for the terrorists."

He added: "I am not anti-anybody but what's right for one has to be right for the other. We have seen people who have openly admitted to murders and who are happily living in Spain, but nobody seems to be going after them. And some of their colleagues have even gone into government. So it appears everybody is trying to make the Troubles the fault of the British armed forces when they were actually sent here by politicians."

Referring to 'Soldier F' facing charges over Bloody Sunday, Mr Weston said: "One soldier has been singled out for one day's action but when you have a look at it, I don't see any of the senior people who gave out the orders being brought to book."

He also criticised those "passing judgment more than 40 years on and trying to second guess what was going through a soldier's mind", adding: "They don't talk about the pressure the soldiers were under.

"People can't understand the pressure on 18 or 19-year-old soldiers coming on the streets."

Mr Weston, who also served in south Armagh, said he was caught up in a number of riots.

He added: "We had no idea whether or not we were being lined up to be sniped upon or if there was a bomb ambush intended for us.

"The pressure to make the right decision and not to shoot was intense."

Mr Weston said the feelings of betrayal among former British soldiers were "palpable".

He added: "And what are they doing now? They're stabbing everybody in the back."

He said military intervention in the Troubles was never going to be the answer.

He called for the Government to follow the example of what South Africa did several decades ago and draw a line in the sand regarding more prosecutions.

In response to Mr Weston's comments, a UK Government spwwokesperson said: "This Government salutes the heroism and bravery of those members of our Armed Forces and police officers who stood valiantly to uphold democracy and the rule of law and who, in far too many cases, paid the ultimate price. Without their contribution there would have been no peace process in NI. We will never forget the debt of gratitude we owe them.

"The system to investigate the past needs to change to provide better outcomes for victims and survivors of the Troubles and to also ensure members of our armed forces and police are not disproportionally affected. This is why we have consulted widely on the system in Northern Ireland.

"The 2017 manifesto made clear any approach to the past must be consistent with the rule of law. We have always said that we will not introduce amnesties or immunities from prosecution in Northern Ireland.

"The Ministry of Defence is currently looking at what more can be done to provide further legal protection to service personnel and veterans, including considering legislation."

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