Just a footnote to yesterday’s post on the government’s floating of an amnesty for security forces.
The Irish News follows up predictably enough with angry responses to what they rightly report as the adoption of the recommendation of the Commons Defence Committee report just before the general election.
The committee, which includes DUP MP Gavin Robinson, said that the pursuit of members of the crown forces was “wholly oppressive and a denial of natural justice”.
“It can be ended only by a statute of limitations.,”
They repeat the doubtful claim that an amnesty would correct the imbalance with former paramilitaries.
Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, people convicted for pre-1998 offences would serve just two years in jail, but this allowance does not apply to British soldiers or police officers.
Legal authority I quoted spelled out how there was no such ineligibility. It was actually used after a trial of soldiers in 1998. There is no loophole to close. But it may be that former soldiers in a and police officers would be reluctant to be tried under the NI Sentences Act in any numbers as it was obviously drafted for paramilitary use. However if convicted they could still apply to the Sentences Commissioners for early release.
Outside No 10 Gerry Adams claimed the measure had unilaterally been included in an amendment to the 2014 Stormont House Agreement by the UK government. The government spokesman didn’t specifically deny that but said a consultation had yet to be called.
Strange though that Adams didn’t make the obvious point, that an eventual amnesty for security forces is foreshadowed in the Conservative – DUP confidence and supply agreement. Odd that he missed a trick like that.
The UK government will work with the Executive and all parties to seek the implementation of the legacy bodies in the Stormont House Agreement, to provide better outcomes for victims and survivors. The next phase is a public consultation on implementation of the Stormont House Agreement legacy bodies. These are to be established so as to operate in ways that are fair, balanced and proportionate and which do not unfairly focus on former members of the armed forces or police. Both parties reiterate their admiration for the courage and sacrifice of the police and armed forces in upholding democracy and the rule of law and will never forget the debt of gratitude that we owe them.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London