MPs and Peers have united across the political divide have united to sign an open letter which demands that Prime Minister Theresa May stop the persecution of veterans of the conflict in Northern Ireland. Despite being cleared of any wrongdoing at the time, four British veterans – three of them elderly – are facing trial over Northern Ireland shootings dating back as far as 1972 as part of the investigations into so-called “legacy” killings.
One of the veterans, Dennis Hutchings, who is 77 years old and seriously ill has admitted that the pressure he is feeling due to the investigation has caused him to have suicidal thoughts. He is so determined to prove his innocence he is refusing kidney dialysis for fear his case will be dismissed on medical grounds.
These cases are however the tip of an iceberg. Another 278 cases involving British soldiers in Northern Ireland also face re-investigation. Despite Government figures showing that 60 per cent of killings were caused by Republican terrorists, mainly factions of the IRA, 30 per cent by Loyalist paramilitaries, and 10 per cent by members of state forces “who in almost all cases were acting within the law” Mrs May insisted that the balance of investigations in relation to The Troubles, from 1968 to 1998, was “patently unfair”.
The letter says: “The legal assault endured by our brave service men and women following operational service in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan is a national disgrace. If unchecked, it will continue to undermine the crucial bond of trust between the state and our military and enfeeble our nation’s fighting power, our national security and our foreign policy. We call upon the Government to legislate for a statue of limitations to ensure that British soldiers who have served honorably and done their duty will no longer face repeated or spurious allegations, many years – even decades – after service.”
This latest round of investigations follows botched attempts to harry veterans of the Afghan and Iraqi wars. More than 3,500 allegations were leveled at Iraq veterans, at a cost to taxpayer of £60 million none of which lead to a prosecution.
This shocking betrayal of the men and women who gave their lives to protect our country has to stop now!