Ferrari News – End this witch hunt of Army veterans, says NICK FERRARI | Nick Ferrari | Columnists | Comment
The hairs still tingle when you recall then prime minister David Cameron addressing the House of Commons back in 2010 after the Bloody Sunday report was published. After extolling the virtues of the Army and our soldiers “who I believe to be the finest in the world”, he added definitively: “There is no doubt… what happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong.” That degree of all-consuming condemnation can now be levelled at the collapse last week of the trial of two former members of the Parachute Regiment charged with murder dating back virtually half a century. This has to be one of the most shameful trials in British legal history.
The degrading episode was not a “trial”, rather a politically motivated witch hunt.
The case dates back to April 1972 when IRA commander Joe McCann was shot and killed when he tried to evade arrest. Three soldiers involved in the incident, who came to be known as A, B and C, were compelled to give a statement to their senior officer without lawyers or advisers present. If they’d refused, their military careers would have been over.
A year later an inquest jury returned an open verdict and the chief prosecutor said there was no evidence to support charges.
Then, astonishingly, a further 36 years passed before the Historical Enquiries Team, which was set up while Tony Blair was prime minister as part of the Good Friday accord to investigate unsolved murders in the Troubles, contacted soldiers A and C asking them to provide interviews.
The following year both soldiers were interviewed, but were told by the Team “this is the end of it”. Regrettably, that was to be far from the truth. Another six years passed and the soldiers were told they were to be charged with the murder of the IRA killer. When it finally got to the courts the trial collapsed in just six days!
The two comrades and ex-Paras, one 70, the other 71, last week walked from the court as free men, but have endured decades of doubt and unfounded suspicion.
Their “crime” was to be brave young men who did their duty. When a terrorist said to be responsible for the deaths of 15 British soldiers refused to give himself up they were forced to take decisive action.
How grotesque that their actions and motives were played out in front of them and their suitability to serve as soldiers questioned. And by people who were not even born when these events took place and who have never displayed the slightest shred of compatible bravery.
Credit must go to Conservative MP Johnny Mercer, himself a former Army captain, who spoke out against the inhumanity of these – and other similar – cases and was sacked as a result.
Chillingly, there are believed to be up to 700 other former members of the military who could be facing possible charges, and seven cases are already “active”.
This has to stop. Courtesy of Tony Blair, almost 100 IRA fugitives were given “letters of comfort” absolving them from past crimes, although they were seen as potential suspects in around 300 murder cases.
Yet the Government still allows the Kafkaesque nightmare of soldiers, some of them gravely ill, being dragged in front of the courts to give evidence concerning events that happened half a century ago.
There’s a Queen’s Speech on Tuesday in which the Government will outline its goals and plans and this issue is predicted to feature. Seeing as these men did their duty to her, it’s time the Government did the same by them and allowed the Monarch to deliver the message that all future trials without compelling fresh evidence are to be vetoed at once.