The Government has dropped plans to protect military veterans from prosecution in Monday’s Queen’s Speech, according to reports over the weekend.
Reacting to the news, Hilary Meredith, Chair of Hilary Meredith Solicitors and Visiting Professor of Law and Veterans’ Affairs at the University of Chester said:
“I am dismayed by the lack of protection for military veterans who were doing their duty and following orders.
“During the Conservative leadership campaign, Boris Johnson talked about the importance of standing up for our service personnel and veterans. He called for the military covenant to be enshrined into law and, crucially, for the protection of veterans from repeated historical allegations, including Northern Ireland.
“Creating a new Office of Veterans’ Affairs was a step in the right direction – but failing to protect veterans from legacy prosecutions in the Queen’s Speech is a worrying omission.
“If the PM is committing to legislating on this issue, why the delay? Nothing is more important than protecting the men and women who serve their country.
“Serving soldiers and veterans need greater legal protection – and they need it now,” concluded Hilary, who played a key role in exposing the flawed and discredited workings of the Iraq Historic Allegations Team, leading to its closure in 2017 after thousands of innocent British service personnel were falsely accused of war crimes.
Lance-Corporal Brian Wood won the Military Cross for bravery in Iraq – only to be falsely accused of war crimes at a public inquiry nine years later.
Now a best-selling author and ambassador for Hilary Meredith Solicitors, he also believes greater legal protection for service personnel and veterans is long overdue.
“Failing to legislate in the Queen’s Speech is a missed opportunity to stand behind our service personnel and veterans,” said Brian.
“Being falsely accused of war crimes ruins careers, marriages and also fuels the fire of PTSD and trauma on the battlefield. To get these false allegations thrown at you is a bitter pill to swallow.”
Six former British soldiers who served in Northern Ireland are currently facing prosecution, whilst others are under investigation.
There are also concerns legal action could also be taken over the actions of UK forces in more recent conflicts including Iraq and Afghanistan.