Proposed statute of limitations for British soldiers “an insult to victims and survivors”

Posted By: April 27, 2017

Connla Young. Irish News. Belfast. Thursday, April 27, 2017

Relatives of people killed by the British army have reacted angrily after a Westminster committee recommended the introduction of a statute of limitations covering the investigation and prosecution of soldiers for crimes committed during the Troubles.

The defense committee has urged the British government to protect soldiers who served in the north from the start of the Troubles up to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1988.

The committee also said that it would “encourage the next government to extend this provision to include former members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and other former security personnel”.

“It will also be a matter for the next government to decide, after appropriate consultations, whether the statute of limitations should also cover all Troubles-related incidents,” it said.

The defense committee has said the introduction of any statute of limitations should be “coupled with the continuation and development of a truth recovery mechanism”.

The PSNI is investigating 354 Troubles killings attributed to the security forces.

Last night Sean McAnespie, whose brother of Aidan was shot dead by the British army in 1988, criticized the proposals.

The 23-year-old was shot seconds after walking through a British army checkpoint on his way to GAA grounds near Aughnacloy in Co Tyrone in 1988.

Mr. McAnespie’s death sent shockwaves through the nationalist community at the time.

Manslaughter charges brought against the soldier involved, Grenadier Guardsman David Jonathan Holden, were dropped in 1990.

He was later fined for negligent discharge of his weapon and allowed to return to duty.

He was given a medical discharge from the British army in 1990.

A Public Prosecution Service review of the case is ongoing, although the matter is with the PSNI.

“I don’t agree with it,” Mr. McAnespie said.

“People are entitled to justice and truth.

“I think it’s very insensitive to the nationalist people of Ireland, to come out with this when talks about the peace process are going on.”

Mr. McAnespie said he believes the British establishment is attempting to point score.

“What they are doing is rubbing our noses in it, not just our family but the nationalist community.”

The McAnespie family solicitor Darragh Mackin described the development as “disturbing news.”

“Victims and the families of victims can, however, take comfort in that any such act is deeply flawed and not legally viable,” he said.

“There is a considerable body of jurisprudence that enshrines the importance of criminal justice in the context of historic investigations into the right to life, and the military and police are not and cannot be exempt from that principle.”

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said the recommendations are “an insult to victims and survivors.”

“There can be no immunity for people who have murdered Irish citizens,” he said.

SDLP Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly said: “No-one should be off limits to the rule of law, be they a soldier, a policeman, a member of MI5 on the one hand or on the other hand a member of the IRA, UDA, UVF, INLA or another terror gang. This legal principle is at the heart of the rule of law and is non-negotiable.”

The chairman of the defense committee, Dr Julian Lewis, said: “To subject former soldiers to legal pursuit under the current arrangements is wholly oppressive and a denial of natural justice.

“The UK Parliament has it entirely within its power to enact a statute of limitations in this matter.”