Government poised to ban prosecution of veterans – and paramiltaries – report claims

Ministers at Westminster are poised to block the prosecution of soldiers involved in fatal Troubles deaths, it has been reported.

Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 10:46 pm
Updated Thursday, 6th May 2021, 9:17 am

The government is finalising the plans – which would end the controversial prosecutions, dating back 50 years in some cases – and that outline details will be announced in the Queen’s Speech next week, The Telegraph newspaper reported late on Wednesday evening.

A move towards an approach that echoes the “truth and reconciliation” model used in post-Apartheid South Africa is said to be on the table, and that the prosecution ban will apply to former paramilitaries as well as military personnel.

Minister are said to believe that prosecutions linked to the Troubles are increasingly unlikely to lead to convictions, as whatever evidence is available is likely to be ruled inadmissible due to the passage of time.

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Former veterans minister Johnny Mercer pictured at Laganside Court on Tuesday. Picture: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.

Following the collapse of the trial of two former paratroopers in Belfast on Tuesday former defence and veterans minister Johnny Mercer said it was time for the government to act.

Mr Mercer said: “The government has made very clear promises, and the Prime Minister has made very clear promises, on legislation to end the relentless pursuit of those who served their country in Northern Ireland. It is time to deliver on that.”

The two soldiers on trial for the murder of Official IRA member Joe McCann in 1972 were acquitted – with veterans’ supporters questioning the PPS decision to pursue a prosecution.

However, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Michael Agnew said the decision was taken after the evidence received was subjected to a “very thorough and careful examination by a team of experienced lawyers”.

Quoting a Whitehall source, The Telegraph said: “We have been working extremely hard to deliver on our manifesto commitments in relation to addressing the legacy of the Troubles – for both victims and veterans.

“Our engagement on our proposals is ongoing.”

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