DUP leader Arlene Foster MLA has called for the statutory definition of a victim to be amended to ensure that innocent people are no longer placed in the same legal category as bomb-makers.
Mrs Foster was speaking after the DUP lodged its response to the Northern Ireland Office consultation on addressing the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past, the deadline for which was Friday.
The party says the status quo is “unacceptable” and in its submission called for a statutory definition of collusion and new protections for veterans.
New UK-wide legislation to improve the definition of a terrorist victim is necessary, she said.
“In our opinion, there is a clear distinction in law between a terrorist perpetrator and their innocent victim,” she said.
“To equate the two is morally wrong and indefensible.”
Mrs Foster said: “The DUP has major concerns over elements of the draft Bill proposed by the Northern Ireland Office, and without significant amendment, anticipate it will not meet the objective of properly addressing the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past.”
The main amendments the DUP is calling for to the government’s bill are a statutory definition of collusion and new protections for veterans.
“The attempts to tarnish the RUC and the armed forces have been aided by ‘collusion’ not being defined in law,” she said.
“Going forward we want to see this defined so where cases of carelessness or incompetence are treated as misconduct cases as opposed to ‘collusion’.”
Where UK veterans – of whatever campaign – have already been properly investigated there should be an end to “witch-hunts”, she added.
The submission says on collusion: “We are supportive of setting out to define collusion in legislation, thereby excluding low level incompetence being used to claim wrongly that collusion was evident. We were asked by victims’ organisations to secure full criminal investigations for the victims of terrorism, and only if there is evidence of criminal behaviour should security force actions necessitate a full investigation.”
And it also presses for “legislation that will provide greater legal protection for the Armed Forces and Veterans so that they can no longer become victims of a witch-hunt, whether because of their service in Northern Ireland or in other parts of the globe”.
The submission also expresses concern about the new – and it says undefined – term of “non-criminal police misconduct”.
It is supportive of the idea of a “new body” with “full police powers” to look into Troubles cases.
It said the party regards such a move as “the best opportunity for justice”.
“It is important that any new structures would be proportionate given 90% of deaths were caused by terrorists, and there should be an end to witch hunts against those in the forces of law and order who acted bravely, honourably, and appropriately,” said Mrs Foster.
“We consider the status quo to be unacceptable, with innocent victims inexplicably the only group currently not seeing some level of progress with investigations.”
The party is supporting a new police unit, if necessary, because many victims still wanted the murders of their loved ones probed and there are legal reasons why it may have to be independent from the PSNI, she said.
Morning View, page 10