Iain Duncan Smith highlights the need for compelling evidence if veterans are to be prosecuted for events that occurred a long time ago

9th September 2019

Speaking in a debate on Northern Ireland, Iain Duncan Smith makes the case that it is critical that a criminal prosecution should only be pursued against an individual such a long time after the events occurred if there is compelling eveidence to justify it.

 

I apologise for interrupting the Secretary of State in mid-flow, and I know people want to get on. However, as someone who served over in Northern Ireland—and following the question from our right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), which he stepped around—may I repeat this back to him? Even though he is reiterating the issues about criminal prosecutions and other jurisdictions, the point still remains, as my right hon. Friend said—this is what people have been asking for—that we should not just bring somebody in on the basis of a trawl in the hope that something new will turn up. The issue is that having to have compelling evidence to pursue an individual is critical. That does not impact on any criminal activities or any effective future prosecutions, because they would face the same issue.

I think my right hon. Friend, who has spoken very persuasively on this issue for many years, makes some important points, but I return to the fact that the Government are looking at all these issues in our cross-Whitehall review.

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I did not intend to intervene on the hon. Gentleman, but as he raised that point, I will. The point that I, and I think many of my colleagues, are making is that those who have served and have left—some are in their seventies, and so on—face this unedifying process of suddenly being hauled back, not because there is compelling evidence, but in the hope that people may find something that was not available to them at the time. That is surely the key issue— a lack of natural justice—and it has to be stamped on.

I understand what the right hon. Gentleman said. I simply say that it is a shame that proper investigation did not take place at the time. He will agree, as a former soldier, that he would not have countenanced illegality by those he worked with. Every decent soldier I know of would agree with that premise—that illegality was not what our armed forces were sent to undertake in Northern Ireland. I hear what he says; I am not sure that we are a long way apart on this issue.

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