THE new head of the armed forces has vowed ‘vexatious claims’ against Northern Ireland veterans ‘will not happen on my watch’.
Chief of the defence staff Gen Sir Nick Carter said allowing soldiers to face court over groundless allegations risked undermining the Army’s fighting spirit.
And he promised that veterans who do come under investigation will be looked after ‘to the best of our ability’.
Speaking at a media briefing at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, Sir Nick said: ‘It is right and proper that if our soldiers have done something wrong then they should clearly be investigated.
‘But only if they have done something wrong. We need to have standards, we need to have values that people are held against otherwise we will lose the moral high ground.
‘What is fundamentally wrong though is if they’re chased by people who are making vexatious claims — and that will not happen on my watch. Absolutely not.’
Sir Nick added: ‘What we must try and remind ourselves about this whole Northern Ireland issue is actually what an extraordinarily amazing task the British Army did through 30 years in Northern Ireland.’
Prosecutors have been weighing up whether to bring prosecutions against veterans after a public inquiry found the killing of unarmed civilians on Bloody Sunday in 1972 was ‘unjustifiable’.
Sir Nick’s predecessor as chief of the defence staff, Air Chf Mshl Sir Stuart Peach, said last month he was ‘deeply uncomfortable’ at the prospect of former soldiers facing court over the Troubles.
He said it was down to politicians to decide if there should be a cut-off point for bringing charges against troops.
A consultation document issued by Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley on dealing with the legacy of the Troubles includes no provision to impose a limit.
But defence secretary Gavin Williamson has pledged to look at ‘all options’ to protect veterans amid fears survivors of the World War II campaign could be targeted.