Committee of MPs blast rejection of proposed law that would have given Troubles veterans immediate amnesty

A POWERFUL group of MPs yesterday blasted the cruel “blanket rejection” of proposed law changes which would stop Troubles veterans being hounded through court.

The Defence Committee reacted with anger after their suggestions of a Statute of Limitations were flatly dismissed by Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley.

The proposed changes were meant to put an end to Troubles veterans being hounded through court
PA:Press Association

In a stinging rebuke Defence Committee Chair Julian Lewis accused the department of being “closed minded” about the idea. A Statute of Limitations would create a time limit on bringing prosecutions against Troubles veterans – created an immediate amnesty.

A new unit within the MoD has even been established to look at making it work. But Bradley has already said it cannot work sighting “considerable legal difficulties”.

In May the NIO launched a four month long public consultation on their plans to solve the nightmare – including setting up a £150m unit to look at all unsolved crimes. There was already outrage the consultation would not consider the Statute of Limitations.

But the Defence Committee submitted the idea anyway – and Bradley has already written back to reject it – even before the consultation process ends on September.

The Northern Ireland Secretary has dismissed the proposals
PA:Press Association

Responding to the Secretary of State’s letter, Chairman of the Defence Committee, Julian Lewis MP, raged: “Although it is courteous to respond so promptly to our submission while the consultation is still underway, the speed of this reply and the length of the Secretary of State’s letter suggest that its outcome has already been predetermined in favour of a cycle of further investigation and re-investigation.

“Unfortunately, the Secretary of State’s letter is unsatisfactory and seems to be an attempt by the NIO to shut down debate on this important topic. This is particularly evident in the closed minded approach towards a Statute of Limitations, coupled with a truth recovery mechanism.

“This blanket rejection also ignores one of the cardinal points about this debate—namely, the impact of the Northern Ireland Sentences Act which ensures that anyone convicted of murder or manslaughter during the Troubles cannot serve more than 2 years of a life sentence. T

The Secretary of State’s approach is in stark contrast to the recent announcement by the Defence Secretary of the establishment of a dedicated team at the MoD to consider the issue of the legal protection that can be provided to serving and former service personnel.”

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The Defence Committee submitted their proposals last month. It consisting of a “strongly-worded covering letter” and a copy of the Committee’s April 2017 report into the crisis, urging the time bar be considered.

But Bradley said the law change could never work because it would be illegal under European Human Rights laws. And she said it had “no support” on either side of divide as it could lead to an amnesty for IRA terrorists too.

The bitter row erupted as public anger grows over the treatment of veterans being hauled before court over incidents which happened decades ago.

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