Fallon withdraws bid to implement ‘statute of limitations’ for armed forces
Former Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon last night withdrew a bid to protect former soldiers and police officers from prosecution for offences related to the Troubles.
Sir Michael submitted an amendment on legacy investigations during the debate on the Northern Ireland Budget (No. 2) Bill.
It would have withheld funding from the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) in relation to incidents involving security forces that took place more than 20 years ago and have already been investigated.
Sir Michael said: “Nobody in this House would suggest that our troops should be exempt from investigation or prosecution for any kind of wrongdoing—of course not. Parliament itself requires, through the Armed Forces Acts, that any such allegation should be properly investigated by the service police. If there is new evidence concerning recent allegations, then of course they should be looked at.
“Equally, however, we cannot accept a situation where the whole process begins to be abused by cases simply being reopened for the sake of it, where there is not substantive new evidence.
“That was the case as allegations accumulated under the Iraq historical allegation apparatus, which was one reason why I shut it down as Defence Secretary and why, on behalf of the Ministry of Defence, I laid evidence before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, which eventually resulted in the key solicitor involved being struck off.”
However, Sir Michael agreed to withdraw the amendment rather than pushing a division following an intervention by Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley, who said it would “undermine the rule of law” and “impinge on the independence of the judiciary”.
Ms Bradley added: “Decisions made by the DPP are rightly based on available evidence, and it would be manifestly wrong for financial considerations to influence decision making, as proposed in the amendment. Although ultimately it would be for the courts to decide, the likelihood is that these amendments would be incompatible with our obligations under article 2. As such, should the amendment be made, I would be unable as Secretary of State to certify the Bill as compatible with convention rights for introduction to the other place.”