Anonymous Special Forces Support Group

MPs Urge Next PM To End 'Vexatious' Claims Against Veterans

The report by MPs warned repeated investigations risk "undermining morale" within the Armed Forces.

Anonymous Special Forces Support Group

The calls come following a new report by the Commons Defence Select Committee (Picture: Crown Copyright). 

MPs have urged the next Prime Minister to legislate to end the "ridiculous charade" of "vexatious" and repeated investigations into alleged historical offences by British troops.

The Commons Defence Select Committee said there should be a "presumption against prosecution".

In a report, the MPs warned repeated investigations risk "undermining morale" within the Armed Forces as well as trust in the rule of law.

The report covers historical investigations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Northern Ireland. 

While the committee stated that troops are not above the law, it said there is "something fundamentally wrong when veterans and current service personnel can be investigated and exonerated, only then to become trapped in a cycle of endless re-investigation".

Former Army officer and Conservative committee member Johnny Mercer said: "The time for successive secretaries of state to put this issue in the 'too difficult' box has officially passed with the conclusions of this report.

"There are options available to end what I consider one of the greatest injustices we self-inflict upon those who serve.

"I and others fully expect the next prime minister to end this ridiculous charade and legislate to prevent abuses of the legal system by those who seek to rewrite history."

The committee said it welcomed plans put forward by Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt to create a "statutory presumption" against the prosecution of current or former personnel for alleged offences committed in the course of duty abroad more than 10 years ago.

The proposed legislation, which is subject to public consultation, will state that such prosecutions are not in the public interest unless there are "exceptional circumstances", such as if compelling new evidence emerges.

Burned out houses in Conway Street, Belfast, Northern Ireland during the Troubles
The committee said it was concerned the Defence Secretary's proposed new law will not cover soldiers who served during the Troubles (Picture: PA).

However, the committee said it was concerned the proposal will not cover soldiers who served during the Troubles.

Committee chairman and Tory MP Dr Julian Lewis said: "We believe in what we term a 'Qualified Statute of Limitations' - one that draws a line after a decade has elapsed unless compelling new evidence can be produced.

"To meet the requirements of international law that adequate investigation must have taken place, this process could include a Truth Recovery Process where evidence can be taken, without threat of prosecution, finally to uncover the facts."

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "No one wants to see our brave personnel subjected to repeated investigations about historical offences, which is why we are launching a consultation today on proposals for providing legal protections for serving and former Armed Forces personnel.

"The consultation will also propose introducing an absolute time limit for bringing civil litigation claims against the Government, allowing a line to be drawn under claims for historical incidents overseas once and for all."

The new Prime Minister, either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt, will enter Downing Street on Wednesday following the result of the Tory leadership contest.