Veterans and families welcome new legal protection

Plans to give British troops future protection against prosecutions have been welcomed by veterans and their families.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 4th October 2016, 8:15 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th October 2016, 2:21 pm
British troops boarding a Chinook helicopter as UK and Coalition forces completed their tactical withdrawal from Afghanistan. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire
British troops boarding a Chinook helicopter as UK and Coalition forces completed their tactical withdrawal from Afghanistan. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Reg Keys, whose son Tom, 20, was killed while guarding a police station in Iraq in 2003, branded lawyers bringing claims against veterans “ambulance chasers”.

The Government will opt out of parts of the European Convention on Human Rights at times of war after veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have been pursued through the courts over alleged mistreatment of combatants and prisoners.

Mr Keys and other bereaved parents are leading a campaign against the prosecutions, which he described as an “abomination”.

He said: “I applaud Theresa May for taking this step - it’s not for politicians and lawyers to look at the actions of British service personnel in a war zone and the decisions that had to be made.

“They may sit in comfy padded seats in Whitehall pontificating over this - they themselves should try and be in one of those war zones facing the anger and the venom of the enemy.

“The fact that this has now been abandoned makes me breathe a sigh of relief because we ask our troops to do a very difficult job under very difficult circumstances.”

He added: “These lawyers pushing this are ambulance chasers of the very worst kind.

“These men and women that have gone to these war zones for the sake of their own country are now the very ones being pursued by lawyers in their country.

“It’s an abomination and they (the lawyers) should be ashamed of themselves.

“I would like to think that those already under threat of prosecution will be looked at again.”

MP Johnny Mercer, a former Army captain who served in Helmand province, welcomed the decision and said the situation should never have been allowed to happen.

He said: “I’m delighted with the announcement, I think this is the first step in closing the gap that exists in this country today between politicians and those who serve.

“To continue to try and apply human rights laws in combat represented a fundamental misunderstanding by ministers about what we are asking our people to do to keep us safe.”

He added: “This should never have happened in the first place and we need to focus on what we do about those currently having reheated so-called evidence thrown at them for prosecutions by a legal machine that simply exists to make money from the public purse.”

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