UK Soldiers / Operation Banner

Northern Ireland must avoid getting drawn back into the violence that plagued it for three decades. 

 

The Legacy Investigation Branch (LIB) of the PSNI was set up in 2014 and it investigates unsolved murders linked to the Troubles that took place up until 2004.  Earlier this month,  it said that it was not launching any new inquiry into British military personnel.  Where investigations result in service personnel, active or retired, being involved the Ministry of Defence has said that it will support them throughout and will pay for their legal costs.

 

The LIB investigations cover people who were pardoned under the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement and people who later received “letters of comfort” from Tony Blair informing them that they would not be prosecuted.  The PSNI has recently said that it would prefer that the Historical Investigations Unit promised under the Stormont Agreement was set up to take over this task and that is a matter that should be dealt with as soon as possible.

 

The two soldiers who are facing action, however, were charged after the Attorney General for Northern Ireland referred the issue to the prosecutor for an inquest.  The UK Government’s position was made clear in a number of exchanges in the Parliament where they said that decisions about whether or not to prosecute veterans in Northern Ireland are made by prosecutors, not by politicians, and that the armed forces cannot be above the law.  You can find some of these exchanges at these links:

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2015-11-18/debates/15111852000028/Engagements

 

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2015-11-18/debates/15111852000005

 

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https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2016-12-13/debates/359B1D65-1837-4701-BBE1-78FE2D9A6CE9

 

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The SNP’s position is that we do not think politicians should make the decisions about who is or is not prosecuted – that would not be right.  Police investigations in Northern Ireland are carried out by the PSNI and decisions about whether to prosecute are carried out by the relevant prosecutors. I hope that anyone who may be involved will know to ask for the relevant support to which they are entitled from the Ministry of Defence.