Jeremy Corbyn
Northern Ireland

Soldiers Must Be Held To Account Over The Troubles, Corbyn Says

Jeremy Corbyn said "the law must apply to everyone" and what happened on Bloody Sunday was "awful and appalling".

Jeremy Corbyn

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said it is right that members of the Armed Forces are held to account for incidents during the Troubles.

It comes after the announcement that a former British soldier will face murder charges over Bloody Sunday.

Mr Corbyn said the "law must apply to everyone" and denied there was a discrepancy between the investigations into soldiers after Republican suspects were sent "comfort letters" offering effective immunity from prosecution.

Earlier this week, the Public Prosecution Service said there was enough evidence to prosecute a man, known as 'Soldier F', for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney at the civil rights march in Londonderry in 1972.

Burned out houses in Conway Street, Belfast, Northern Ireland during the Troubles
A row of houses on Belfast's Conway Street during the Troubles (Picture: PA).

Speaking on Sky News' 'Sophy Ridge on Sunday', he said: "The law must apply to everyone, and I don't think we should have statutory limitations on this."

Mr Corbyn said "we should have a fair and proper judicial process" and said what happened on Bloody Sunday was "awful and appalling". He added:

"I do think it's important to have the independence of a legal process, and there has to be an insurance that everyone has to abide by the law."

He was pressed on whether it was fair given how those members of the IRA suspected of crimes were offered an amnesty in the Northern Irish peace process.

The Labour leader replied: "The Good Friday Agreement was important, seminal and complicated, but it does not provide complete immunity for everyone, it was never intended to."

Bloody Sunday mural on house in Londonderry
Thirteen civil rights demonstrators were shot dead on 30 January 1972, on one of the most notorious days of the Northern Ireland Troubles.

Meanwhile, Labour's shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti criticised the comments of Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson in support of Soldier F.

Mr Williamson announced the Government would pay Soldier F's full legal costs, adding that "our serving and former personnel cannot live in constant fear of prosecution".

She told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show that she approves of anyone accused of serious crimes getting "full, complete five-star legal aid". But added: 

"It's not about wannabe prime ministers who are currently Defence Secretary giving coded messages of support to one defendant or another.

"It's about saying anybody who's been charged with murder, which is the most serious offence in our law, should get the best possible defence and it should be paid for by the state."

Asked about Mr Williamson's suggestion to change the law and prevent soldiers from being charged, she said: "I don't think we can do that if we believe in the rule of law."

Baroness Chakrabarti said it would start a "very dangerous precedent if we started granted blanket immunities to anybody in a particular role or profession".