A former head of the Army has expressed dismay at reports that legislation to protect military veterans from prosecution has been jettisoned from today’s Queen’s Speech.
Boris Johnson had promised to end the pursuit of soldiers over historic allegations of offences committed in operations during the Troubles in Northern Ireland as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But The Daily Telegraph reported that the Prime Minister was persuaded to omit the legislation from the Queen’s Speech by Number 10 advisers and officials in the Northern Ireland Office.
The proposed law would have included a statutory presumption against prosecution for current or former personnel for alleged offences committed in the course of duty more than 10 years ago.
General Lord Dannatt, a former chief of the general staff, said he is “very disappointed” at the move.
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “It is a really major issue here which the Government has got to address.
“It is unacceptable that serving soldiers, particularly large numbers of former soldiers, run the risk of prosecution as a result of operations conducted worldwide and including in Northern Ireland.
“Nobody is above the law. If soldiers have broken the law and if there is evidence to back up charges against them, then of course they must face the rigours of the law and take the consequences.
“But in the vast majority of cases, British soldiers, particularly in the campaign in Northern Ireland, got up in the morning to do their duty to keep the peace according to the rules of engagement, in contrast to terrorists whose aim was to maim and kill.”
Today’s Queen’s Speech will see the government highlight its priorities for the coming parliamentary term.