Min­is­ters at war over bill to end witch-hunt of Trou­bles veter­ans

Daily Mail - - News - De­fence and Se­cu­rity Ed­i­tor By Larisa Brown

MIN­IS­TERS are at log­ger­heads over a bill to stop in­ves­ti­ga­tions into Bri­tish troops’ con­duct in North­ern Ire­land from turn­ing into a ‘witch-hunt’, it was claimed last night.

De­fence Sec­re­tary Sir Michael Fallon wants leg­is­la­tion to stop the au­thor­i­ties launch­ing probes into veter­ans in their 60s and 70s un­less new ev­i­dence has come to light, sources said.

With po­lice in­ves­ti­gat­ing Bri­tish Army killings dur­ing the Trou­bles, there have been fears that up to 1,000 for­mer sol­diers could face in­ves­ti­ga­tions over their ac­tions at the height of the IRA’s ter­ror­ist cam­paign.

But it is un­der­stood North­ern Ire­land Sec­re­tary James Bro­ken­shire is push­ing for the clause favoured by Sir Michael to be omit­ted so cases can be re-opened ei­ther way. Army sources said he was un­der pres­sure from Sinn Fein to en­sure both sides were happy with the draft bill’s terms, although Mr Bro­ken­shire’s of­fice said they did not recog­nise this ac­count of the dispute.

Last year it emerged a new po­lice unit will in­ves­ti­gate every Bri­tish Army killing dur­ing the Trou­bles.

The tax­payer-funded Legacy In­ves­ti­ga­tion Branch (LIB) is ready to re-open

38 ‘fa­tal in­ci­dents’ which in­volved 30 deaths. De­tails of the row came as it emerged a Chelsea Pen­sioner has been told he could face more ques­tion­ing over a death in July 197 . The 78-yearold was quizzed by North­ern Ir­ish po­lice at the Royal Hos­pi­tal, Chelsea, in 013 but never any­thing heard fur­ther.

He asked the Min­istry of De­fence if he could as­sume the case was con­cluded ear­lier this year but was told fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tions could not be ruled out. The for­mer Royal Ma­rine said last night: ‘They shouldn’t be in­ves­ti­gat­ing peo­ple un­less there’s new ev­i­dence. This way it’s just hang­ing over my head.’

By ban­ning the LIB from in­ves­ti­gat­ing cases un­less new ev­i­dence comes to light, it is hoped a large chunk of the his­toric cases will be weeded out.

Other clauses in­clude an up­per age limit on who can be in­ves­ti­gated, a fiveyear time limit on how long an in­quiry can last, and a curb on the max­i­mum sen­tences for any­one found guilty.

Mr Bro­ken­shire’s of­fice said his view was the same as that ex­pressed in the Con­ser­va­tives’ 017 man­i­festo, which pledged leg­is­la­tion will be ‘bal­anced’ and ‘not fo­cus on for­mer troops and po­lice’.

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