Defence secretary Penny Mordaunt to give veterans amnesty for battle crimes
4 days ago
Serving military personnel and veterans facing investigations over alleged historical offences are to get greater legal protection under proposals to be announced by the Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt. Ms Mordaunt wants to end the "chilling" threat of "repeated" investigations of troops who served in Northern Ireland.
The proposed legislation to be outlined by Penny Mordaunt would include an end to repeated investigations on historical operations and a statutory presumption against prosecution of current or former personnel for alleged offences committed in the course of duty abroad more than 10 years ago.
It will stipulate that such prosecutions are not in the public interest unless there are "exceptional circumstances", such as if compelling new evidence emerged.
However, any new measures would not apply to cases arising in Northern Ireland.
Conservative Party MP Johnny Mercer, who is refusing to vote for government legislation in the Commons until it ends such historical inquires, welcomed the protection for those who had served overseas.
But he said it needed to go further.
Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt is also expected to reaffirm the position announced by the government three years ago that it would take advantage of a right to suspend aspects of the European Convention on Human Rights at times of war.
In a statement before her announcement, Ms Mordaunt said: "It is high time that we change the system and provide the right legal protections to make sure the decisions our service personnel take in the battlefield will not lead to repeated or unfair investigations down the line."
A ministerial statement detailing the announcement is expected within the next few days.
The former head of the army, General Lord Dannatt, said peers would try to amend the legislation to extend it to Northern Ireland when it comes to the House of Lords.
What about ongoing investigations?
Six former soldiers who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles are facing prosecution.
The cases relate to the killings of two people on Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in January 1972; as well as the deaths in separate incidents of Daniel Hegarty, John Pat Cunningham; Joe McCann and Aidan McAnespie.
Not all of the charges are for murder.
The Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland has said that of 26 so-called Troubles legacy cases it has taken decisions on since 2011, 13 related to republicans, eight to loyalists, and five are connected to the Army.