British Army veterans – another witch hunt with a depressingly familiar ring to it

Thousands of elderly British Army veterans are facing a new ‘witch-hunt’ over the deaths of suspected IRA terrorists more than 40 years ago, The Mail on Sunday has reported.

In the largest ever trawl for eyewitnesses, ex-troops have been asked to provide legal statements about fatal shootings in Northern Ireland ahead of new inquests.

The news of this latest witch-hunt against our veterans has a depressing familiar ring to it.

Earlier this year, the Defence Committee published its Ninth Special Report of Session 2016–17, Who guards the guardians? MoD support for former and serving personnel: Government Response to the Committee’s Sixth Report (HC 1149).

The report was damning in its criticism of the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT).  It accepted submissions by this firm that the lives of soldiers had been put on hold because of allegations made against them – in many cases without any credible supporting evidence.

The Defence Committee report also said the MoD’s package of support for service personnel was “fragmented, inaccessible and largely unknown”.
It said the MoD must, as a priority, devise and publish a single, accessible framework which sets out the MoD’s responsibilities and the support soldiers and veterans can expect to receive. That framework must be widely publicised and understood throughout the chain of command.
I have long campaigned for the MoD to provide a framework of support for servicemen and women facing judicial process.   Under the armed forces covenant, which sets out the relationship between the nation, the government and the armed forces, this is the very least they deserve.   There has also been talk of time limits being introduced for those bringing claims against UK military service personnel – a move I fully support.  Introducing time limits is a sensible step in an attempt to reduce the number of bogus claims being brought.  Many of these claims are entirely without foundation having been fully investigated years ago.

Whether it is Iraq, Afghanistan or this latest Northern Ireland probe, we must not betray the brave men and women who serve our country and I will continue to hold the MoD to account over this issue.

Hilary Meredith