Veterans 'face fresh investigation into killings during the Troubles'
Former British Army soldiers to be questioned over 302 deaths in Northern Ireland, says report
Every death caused by British troops during the Troubles in Northern Ireland is to be investigated, reports The Sun.
A legal inquiry will review each of the 302 killings by the British Army during the 30-year conflict. The process, which could see former servicemen charged with murder, could take years and cost tens of millions of pounds, says the newspaper.
Veterans will be questioned over 238 incidents dating back to 1969. More than 1,000 ex-servicemen could be investigated, including those who have been previously cleared.
Half of those killed by troops were IRA members or loyalist terrorists. The rest were deemed tragic accidents, including civilians caught up in the crossfire.
The Sun says the decision came after a report by the police watchdog, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), rejected a 40-year ruling that soldiers should have additional protection from manslaughter or murder charges simply because they were on duty when killings took place.
It also follows Prime Minister Theresa May decision to protect Iraq veterans from similar cases against them.
The Sun says the news will spur lawyer-driven claims pursuing veterans, many of whom are in their sixties and seventies.
Law firms linked to Irish republicans have already forced the re-openings of 31 inquests into 57 killings by troops.
Conservative MP and former Army officer Johnny Mercer branded the investigation a "historical allegations money machine".
He said: "This is a brand new witch hunt, as well as total and complete betrayal by the government of those who have done its bidding."
In contrast, several Northern Irish terrorists and suspects were pardoned in the 1998 Good Friday peace deal, while others were given "letters of comfort" by then prime minister Tony Blair guaranteeing they would never be prosecuted.
In response, Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire vowed to do more to investigate attacks by republicans, saying there is too much focus on killings by the state, the Belfast Telegraph reports.
The investigation, which was approved by the Police Service of Northern Ireland amid pressure from Sinn Fein politicians,– is being conducted by the force's newly created Legacy Investigations Branch.