This month, MPs proposed changes to how veterans and armed forces personnel are investigated.
The main proposal is for a 10-year “qualified statute of limitations” to be introduced. This will protect veterans and serving armed forces personnel from reinvestigation for alleged crimes.
The proposed legislation will stipulate that prosecutions are not in the public interest, unless there are “exceptional circumstances” such as if compelling new evidence emerges.
The 47-page report, ‘Drawing a Line: Protecting Veterans By a Statute of Limitations‘ details the changes MP’s hope to action.
What the MPs are saying…
“We have been determined to ensure that justice prevails for veterans and for current service personnel,” the MPs said, “whilst ensuring that wrongdoing and criminality are appropriately investigated and punished.”
Immunity from prosecution is not being sought.
“Those who serve in our armed forces are not above the law, but we believe that there is something fundamentally wrong when veterans and [serving] personnel can be investigated and exonerated, only then to become trapped in a cycle of endless reinvestigation.
“Justice prevails for veterans and for current Service personnel, whilst ensuring that wrongdoing and criminality are appropriately investigated and punished. At no point has this Committee (or its predecessor Committee in the last Parliament) endorsed amnesties or ‘blanket immunity’ from prosecution. Those who serve in our Armed Forces are not above the law, but we believe that 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.
We warn that this state of affairs risks undermining not only morale within the Armed Forces, and the potential for future recruitment, but also trust in the rule of law.”
The committee chairman, Julian Lewis MP, 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.”
Roger Brice, our Senior Partner who acts for service personnel, veterans and their families, said: “In failing to recommend that the MoD takes corporate responsibility for its own failings, the defence committee has missed an opportunity to end the great betrayal of our troops. Where there have been systematic failings by the MoD, in failing to provide adequate training for example, corporate responsibility should apply.”
An MoD spokesperson 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 report also called for a presumption against prosecution for historical offences to be added to the Human Rights Act.
Our specialist and highly experienced Military Crime Team have helped countless armed forces personnel in all aspects of military law. For further help and assistance please contact, Roger Brice, Senior Partner and Gepp Solicitors Head of Military Crime on 01206 369889 or email@example.com.
This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.