Sat, 3 December 2022

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Boris Johnson pledges to amend the Human Rights Act to shield Troubles veterans from prosecution

Boris Johnson pledges to amend the Human Rights Act to shield Troubles veterans from prosecution
3 min read

Boris Johnson will make an election pledge to amend the Human Rights Act in an effort to stop military veterans being prosecuted over killings that took place during The Troubles.

The Prime Minister is expected to use the Conservative manifesto to promise to end the legal pursuit of ex-service personnel being probed by the Historical Investigations Unit over their role in the Northern Ireland conflict.

As both main parties marked Armistice Day with a raft of pledges, the Tories promised to "protect former soldiers from vexatious claims" if elected with a majority.

A Conservative source said: "We have been clear that we need to end the unfair trials of people who served their country when no new evidence has been produced and when the accusations have already been exhaustively questioned in court. 

"We will amend the Human Rights Act 1998 to specify that it doesn’t apply to issues - including any death in the Northern Ireland Troubles - that took place before the Act came into force in October 2000. This restores the intended scope of the Act."

Successive Prime Ministers have faced calls to scrap the Historical Investigations Unit, which was a key part of the 2014 Stormont House agreement between the British and Irish governments.

The Unit is investigating allegations of misconduct by service personnel as well as unsolved criminal cases.

But Conservative MPs have objected to the pursuit of more than 200 ex-soldiers over deaths stemming from the Troubles, with Tory Johnny Mercer - now a veterans minister - openly accusing Theresa May of "betraying" those who served Britain.

The Telegraph reports that the Tory manifesto will also vow to "consider legislation that draws a clear line under the past, bringing to an end all ongoing investigations, inquests and prosecutions from the Northern Ireland Troubles".

The pledge to end "ongoing" prosecutions is likely to be controversial, however, as ministers traditionally do not intervene in live criminal proceedings.

Mr Mercer told The Sun: "Boris Johnson is committed to tackling the repeated and vexatious legal claims that have recently so undermined our Armed Services and hindered our ability to fight wars. He has tasked me personally to end it, and I will.

"The pernicious effects of so-called ‘lawfare’ have been a blight on this nation for too long. A majority Conservative Government will bring forward legislation to correct this clear injustice."


The pledge came as both the Conservatives and Labour marked Armistice Day by setting out pledges aimed at ex-troops and their families.

Mr Johnson will vow guaranteed job interviews for veterans who apply for public sector jobs as well as a one-year National Insurance break for firms that take on former soldiers.

Veterans will also be entitled to extra support with childcare if the Conservatives win the election, the party said.

The Prime Minister said: "If I’m elected on December 12, I want the message from my government to our Armed Forces to be louder and clearer than ever: we salute you and we will always support you."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn meanwhile promised that his party's own manifesto would include five pledges to support the Armed Forces and their families, including ditching the public sector pay cap to boost their salaries; ensuring "decent housing"; setting up a Police Federation-style professional body for troops; a "root and branch review of outsourcing"; and better access to schools for forces children.

Mr Corbyn said: "Our forces should not have to put up with pay cuts, sub-standard housing, difficulties accessing school for their children, or face the uncertainty of relying on outsourced providers.

"After a decade of government cuts and outsourcing, Labour offers our armed forces real change with the pay, conditions and respect they deserve."

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