NEWBURY’S MP yesterday called for new legislation to prevent court proceedings against serving and ex-soldiers for alleged historic offences committed during military operations.
Richard Benyon was addressing the House of Commons when he introduced a 10 Minute Rule Bill seeking to create statutory limitations which would make it impossible to bring a case against members of the armed forces after 10 years.
The Bill (usually used to highlight a particular issue and gauge support) was introduced in light of the growth of the legal industry that has developed in recent years and the actions taken by the Legacy Investigations Branch in Northern Ireland.
Speaking afterward, Mr Benyon, who himself served as an officer with the Royal Green Jackets in Northern Ireland during the 1980s, said: “This industry of ‘lawfare’ has developed where politically motivated and sometimes dishonest lawyers seek to use conflicts such as Afghanistan and Iraq to bring cases, sometimes over a decade old, before the courts.
“In the case of Northern Ireland, much has been done to appease terrorists through the Good Friday Agreement and the on-the-runs letters. Now some balance is required to protect veterans from being pursued into old age."
He added: “The reason for this Bill is to bring back fairness and not penalise those former service personnel who served our country so well, put themselves in harm’s way for our safety and who deserve to live a peaceful retirement.”
In September Mr Benyon urged Ulster army veterans living in West Berkshire to ignore requests from the Government to assist with fresh investigations into Troubles-era killings.
Some shootings date back 30 or 40 years, with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) sending letters to former soldiers asking them to be witnesses in new inquests into the deaths.