Penny Mordaunt unveils plan to shield military veterans from 'unfair investigations'

Posted On: 
15th May 2019

Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt has promised fresh action to stop Armed Forces veterans from being "unfairly" pursued over historic killings.

The Defence Secretary took over from Gavin Williamson earlier this month.
Credit: 
PA

Amid mounting anger on the Tory backbenches over the treatment of veterans of the Troubles, the Cabinet minister will spell out plans to make it harder to pursue former service personnel.

But Ms Mordaunt is likely to disappoint some MPs as the proposed new rule will not cover incidents that occurred during the conflict in Northern Ireland.

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She said: "We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to our Armed Forces, who put their lives on the line to protect our freedom and security.

"It is high time that we change the system and provide the right legal protections to make sure the decisions our service personnel take in the battlefield will not lead to repeated or unfair investigations down the line."

Ms Mordaunt will propose a new "statutory presumption against prosecution" over incidents that took plan more than 10 years ago, unless compelling new evidence comes to light.

The plan will cover all overseas postings including Iraq and Afghanistan, but will not include incidents that took place during the Troubles.

Ministers are currently pressing ahead with plans to set up a new Historical Investigations Unit to probe unsolved deaths from the decades-long conflict in Northern Ireland, a move that has sparked fierce opposition from some Tory MPs.

Earlier this month Conservative MP Johnny Mercer announced that he would no longer support the Government in protest at the treatment of elderly veterans being pursued over historic killings.

He said: “The macabre spectacle of elderly veterans being dragged back to Northern Ireland to face those who seek to re-fight that conflict through other means, without any protection from a government who sent them almost fifty years ago, is too much.”

The Ministry of Defence said: "A short public consultation will propose legislation to ensure service personnel and veterans are not subjected to repeated investigations on historical operations, many years after the events in question."

The new plans will be set out in a ministerial statement over the coming days, with Ms Mordaunt - who took on the job earlier this month following the sacking of Gavin Williamson - due to speak at military think tank RUSI on Wednesday.