Defence chief needs to let criminal justice system do its job

Alliance Party Deputy Leader, Stephen Farry, has said it’s not the job of those tasked with helping to uphold the rule of law to second guess it, as he responded to media comments from the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter.

Appearing to draw a distinction between ‘genuine’ and ‘vexatious’ allegations against members of the armed services, Dr Farry stressed that it is not for the Army to make those judgement calls, adding the comments also ran the risk of undermining the integrity of the criminal justice system and the rule of law.

He added: “These appear dangerous, irresponsible comments at odds with the rule of law. Gen Sir Nick Carter may well have recognised that current and former soldiers should be held accountable, but it is not tenable for him to make judgements or draw a distinction on what are ‘genuine’ versus ‘vexatious’ claims. Rather that is the job of the criminal justice system, and it is incumbent on the Army and the Ministry of Defence to fully co-operate with any investigations.

“Alliance recognises that the vast majority of soldiers acted honourably and bravely in protecting the community in Northern Ireland. The purpose of their deployment was to assist in keeping the community safe and upholding the rule of law.

“As has been documented, with Bloody Sunday being the most obvious example, there has been incidents where soldiers have not acted in line with the rule of law, and there are also questions around wider policy and practice. In all of these situations, investigations and accountability are appropriate.

“However, it is not the job for those tasked with helping to uphold the rule of law to second guess it. The UK Government and the Ministry of Defence urgently need to clarify these remarks from the Chief of the Defence Staff.

“There is not a witchhunt underway against former members of armed forces. Indeed, those in positions in authority need to tackle this propaganda rather than feeding it. It is incumbent that we get on with the Stormont House arrangements in place as soon as possible as this provides a more comprehensive and effective system.”

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