A former paratrooper (Solder C) who was awarded the British Empire Medal for his heroic actions during a distinguished career now faces prosecution for the shooting dead of IRA commander Joe McCann more than 40 years ago.
The 65 year had been cleared of any wrongdoing over the killing in 1972.
Two months ago Soldier C, and a fellow ex-soldier, were informed that their case, after being reviewed by Northern Ireland’s Historic Enquiries Team (HET) and closed in 2010, had been passed to the country’s Public Prosecution Service.
It means the men, who served with the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment at the height of the Troubles, could be ordered to stand trial for the 1972 Belfast killing — and face jail if convicted.
Soldier C’s case has echoes of the legal witch-hunt against brave Iraq veterans being pursued by the Iraq Historical Allegations Team (IHAT).
MPs recently heard investigators are turning up on family doorsteps and at barracks gates demanding information or threatening arrest.
In one harrowing incident they appeared at an ex-girlfriend’s house and interviewed her on whether her former partner had tattoos, was abusive or talked in his sleep.
In another they turned up at a barracks and threatened to arrest an officer despite the fact he was acquitted by an internal probe 10 years before.
Even witnesses have been threatened with arrest as the six-year probe into alleged Iraq War wrongdoing has got completely out of hand.
It is the latest set of scandalous revelations about IHAT, which has ballooned out of control as taxpayers’ cash has been used to launch more than 1,500 compensation claims on behalf of alleged victims of mistreatment – including bogus allegations by lawyers.
The probe, which has already handed out more than £22 million in compensation and whose overall bill has spiralled beyond £57 million, is being investigated by a sub-committee of the Commons Defence Committee led by MP Jonny Mercer.
Witnesses have told the MPs the promise of compensation is “fuelling” hundreds of bogus claims by Iraqis who get British legal aid to bring their claims – while UK troops are forced to pay to defend themselves.
One Sergeant Major has been left £7,000 out of pocket as a result.
Those soldiers I have spoken to feel their lives are on hold. They feel hung out to dry by the military, by the lack of support. Many of them have suffered from mental stress or possibly PTSD as a result of service that has been highlighted as a result.
The Ministry of Defence should be standing behind Soldier C – and all our brave servicemen and women put in this situation – with a framework of support and assistance.
Having consulted with veterans, I believe they should be guaranteed the following:
- – The right to a framework of help and support for serving and ex-military personnel to include, Chain of Command, welfare and medical support.
- – The right to independent legal advice.
- – The right for funding for such advice.
- – The right to a fair trial.
- – Time limits be imposed on these cases.
- – The rights promised to military personnel under the military covenant to be upheld.