British soldiers would not be protected from prosecution for Troubles-era offences

File photo of Westminster

British soldiers would not be protected from prosecution for offences during the Troubles under draft UK Government proposals expected to be drawn up soon.

Thousands were killed or injured during 30 years of violence in the North, most by paramilitaries but a significant number at the hands of security forces members.

Senior British MPs had urged a statute of limitation which would prevent anyone from facing trial for offences that happened during the conflict, including former servicemen and paramilitaries.

Victims' representatives, Sinn Féin, the DUP and the Irish Government voiced concerns.

Over the last year, the concept of an amnesty has gained traction among a number of Westminster backbenchers, who claim recent prosecutions of former British soldiers are tantamount to a "witch-hunt".

Prosecutors and police in the North insist such allegations simply do not stand up to scrutiny, with a breakdown of figures showing no disproportionate focus on ex-security force members.

Mechanisms to deal with the conflict legacy were agreed by Northern politicians in the 2014 Stormont House Agreement; an amnesty was not among them.

The agreed proposals, including a new independent investigatory unit, a truth recovery body and an oral archive, are on ice due to a small number of outstanding disputes.

Amid a political impasse on implementing the new structures - part of a wider political malaise preventing the re-establishment of devolved power-sharing at Stormont - former Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire had proposed conducting a consultation exercise to establish the wider public's view.

In the House of Commons recently, senior Conservative, Defence Committee chairman Julian Lewis said it would be a "retrograde step" if the legacy consultation did not consider a statute of limitations proposal.

DUP leader Arlene Foster has urged the UK Government to take forward a meaningful consultation.

- PA

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