A British soldier who delivered one of the most famous military speeches of modern times has denounced investigations into the conduct of ex-personnel.
Northern Irishman Tim Collins added his voice to a chorus of dissent over a probe into the actions of soldiers in Iraq, and described the current criminal investigation into Bloody Sunday as a “farce”.
Mr Collins was speaking after a clampdown was announced last week on legal firms which pursue claims against veterans.
Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday suggested action would be taken against firms which had pursued “fabricated” claims, adding “there is now an industry trying to profit from spurious claims lodged against our brave servicemen and women who fought in Iraq”.
He was also commenting against the backdrop of the arrest of an ex-Paratrooper on November 10, over the events of Bloody Sunday, January 30, 1972 in Londonderry, which cost the lives of 14 people.
The man, now in his 60s, was subsequently bailed.
Mr Collins – a former colonel with the Royal Irish Regiment, who spoke out in 2013 against action in Syria – gained international recognition for his ‘eve of battle’ address to his troops ahead of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Part of the speech centred on the need for soldiers to show restraint and respect.
“If you harm the regiment or its history by over enthusiasm in killing or in cowardice, know it is your family who will suffer, “ he said.
“You will be shunned unless your conduct is of the highest for your deeds will follow you down through history.“
On the subject of Bloody Sunday, Mr Collins (who now runs a consultancy firm called New Century) said: “The Bloody Sunday farce is less about justice for those killed and wounded and more of a political stunt and cannot be taken seriously.”
Asked about the investigations into the conduct of personnel in Iraq, he said: “I think the Prime Minister has said it all.
“The abuse of legal aid must cease and those who have abused it for gain must be punished, struck off and their firms closed.”
He said that the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (or IHAT, a UK inquiry set up to probe alleged wrongdoing by troops from 2003 to July 2009) was “compromised” by a raft of factors and “must be reformed” – but that if it were simply wound up then the UK could face action by the International Criminal Court.
IHAT has looked into the cases of more than 1,500 Iraqis who it was claimed have been the subject of wrongdoing by UK forces, including 280 who are alleged to have been unlawfully killed (according to the BBC).
Legal aid has been made available to Iraqis to pursue cases against UK personnel.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon recently accused “ambulance chasing” lawyers of undermining UK troops.
On the subject of Alexander Blackman – the former Royal Marine who was jailed for murder after shooting a wounded fighter in Afghanistan – Mr Collins said: “Blackman was tried by a military court against different tests a civilian court would set and so has been denied justice.”