Statute of limitation on Troubles cases could sanitise terrorism - veterans

A veterans' group in Northern Ireland has voiced opposition to any move to introduce a statute of limitation on Troubles prosecutions.

The Northern Ireland Crown Forces Veterans for Justice organisation echoed concerns already raised by DUP leader Arlene Foster that an amnesty for former security force members would, by law, have to also include ex-paramilitary gunmen.

Ex-Ulster Defence Regiment soldier Mel Brown, founder of the veterans' support group, said she was opposed to anything that drew an "equivalence" between army, police and paramilitaries.

"Northern Ireland Crown Forces Veterans for Justice would not be in favour of the statute of limitations, given mostly the same concerns that Arlene Foster has voiced on the issue," she said.

"We have a fear it would actually sanitise terrorism and would put them on a equal footing with ourselves, so we would not like to see that come into play.

"We do not want to have any shape or form of equivalence with terrorists."

Group member Colin Brown, another former soldier, said the current system for investigating Troubles incidents in Northern Ireland was unfair.

He claimed paramilitaries were not being pursued by the authorities while soldiers were being brought before the courts over incidents that happened 40 years ago.

Mr Brown said veterans had been "left behind" in the peace process.

"We can't not stand by our veterans here who were the law and order of this country in what were very, very testing times," he said.

"We did not set out to murder or kill anybody and we will not stand by and let our names be dragged through the mud - we have been quiet for too long."

Members of the group were at Belfast Crown Court on Thursday to show support for former soldier Dennis Hutchings, who is due to stand trial on two charges linked to the shooting of a man with learning difficulties in Co Tyrone in 1974.

Hutchings denies the charges.