The Government “will legislate” to make sure no-one who served in the armed forces suffers “vexatious or unfair prosecution” for historic cases where no new evidence has been provided, the Prime Minister has said.
Boris Johnson told MPs during Prime Minister’s Questions that, in light of the restoration of powersharing in Northern Ireland, “nothing in the agreement, I want to reassure the House, will stop us from going ahead with legislation”.
His comments came as Labour’s Sarah Jones (Croydon Central) called on Mr Johnson to give a straight “yes or no, whether he now supports the investigation of every single outstanding claim”.
She asked: “Can I congratulate the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State and all the parties in Northern Ireland on the re-establishment of the Assembly?
“The press were briefed last year that the Prime Minister was going to bring an end to all ongoing investigations from the conflict, and he said on Monday that he wouldn’t support vexatious claims when there was no new evidence, but, of course, the Stormont agreement includes the Historical Investigations Unit and the point of all the ongoing investigations is that the original evidence has never been properly investigated.
“So will the Prime Minister today tell us, yes or no, whether he now supports the investigation of every single outstanding claim?”
Mr Johnson replied: “We will go ahead and, as I said yesterday, I think there’s a good balance that’s been struck in getting Stormont going again, between those who need truth and those who need certainty and the protection of our armed services and nothing in the agreement, I want to reassure the House, will stop us from going ahead with legislation to make sure that no-one who served in our armed forces suffers unfair prosecution, vexatious or unfair prosecution for cases that happened many years ago where no new evidence has been provided. We will legislate to ensure that that cannot happen.”
Stalled legacy mechanisms related to Troubles killings, agreed by the region’s parties as part of the 2014 Stormont House Agreement, are finally set to be implemented as part of the deal to restore powersharing.
They include an independent investigation unit to establish if any prosecutorial opportunities remain, and a truth recovery body to help families find out more details about the deaths of their loved ones in cases where prosecutions are unlikely.
Mr Johnson was asked on Monday about the prospect of more veterans being prosecuted.
He stood by the Conservatives’ general election manifesto pledge to protect armed forces veterans from the 30-year conflict from unfair prosecutions without new evidence.
The Prime Minister said the Stormont parties had done a good job balancing that with giving confidence to victims of violence who are seeking answers.