MP: ‘RUC faced same risks as soldiers and must be legally protected’

MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Tom Elliott, November 3, 2016.
MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Tom Elliott, November 3, 2016.

A unionist MP has said the RUC should also be included in any special measures which are drawn up to limit ex-soldiers’ exposure to potential prosecution.

Tom Elliott, himself a former UDR soldier, said that throughout the years of the Troubles the Province’s police force essentially faced the same dangers as the Army.

He was speaking after the News Letter carried a story, citing reports in The Sun and Daily Mail, about plans which are rumoured to be afoot to curb potential prosecutions of military personnel.

It has been mooted that such a bill may include things like setting out an upper age limit for people who may be investigated, and a maximum length of time that anyone convicted may have to spend in jail.

The government has not denied that such proposals are in the offing.

Mr Elliott, UUP MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, said he expected that any such law would cover UDR members.

Asked whether he feels it should go further and encompass police officers too, he said: “Absolutely – I do indeed...

“They were working under basically the same or very similar conditions.

“There was a very, very difficult terrorist campaign, and RUC members and Army members were being murdered on a similar basis, son conditions were of a very similar nature.”

He said he intends to raise the matter in the House of Commons.

He added: “We need to be clear how it’s going to be implemented, because what we don’t want is a huge number of legal challenges around that, that’d still be putting the spotlight on former security forces members.”

For example he wondered if, were the option of criminal court action against soldiers to be reduced, whether there may instead be an increased focus upon trying to grill them via coroners courts.

Reports detailing aspects of the still-unconfirmed bill have stated that it is thought to include a statement that since 90% of Troubles killings were by terrorists, police funds should be allocated accordingly.