General Election

Statute of limitations on Troubles cases could form part of Tory/DUP deal

Former British soldiers have protested over investigations being held into Troubles cases

A statute of limitations for Troubles investigations could be negotiated as part of a post-election deal between the Conservatives and the DUP.

Some Tory MPs have demanded legislation that would protect British soldiers linked to historical killings from prosecution.

Amid rallies by army veterans, the House of Commons defence committee backed those calls earlier this year.

Along with a statute of limitations it recommended a truth recovery mechanism to help bereaved families.

DUP committee member Gavin Robinson, who retained his East Belfast seat, said at the time: "The last 20 years have been marred by the completely imbalanced treatment of those who terrorised our society; and those brave service personnel who ensured they would never succeed.

"Early release of prisoners, a maximum two-year sentence for fresh terrorist convictions, odious on-the-runs legislation and a secretive scheme to issue letters of immunity have all tarnished the balance of justice."

The committee heard evidence from legal experts that a statue applying only to state forces would leave the UK open to the charge of legislating for "state impunity".

However, members stopped short of recommending that a law should cover all Troubles killings, saying it would be for the next government to decide.

The issue may now be revisited after Thursday's election left the Conservatives reliant on DUP support to form a government.

There was controversy during the election campaign when a group backed by the three main loyalist paramilitary organisations endorsed DUP candidates.

Loyalist sources say they hope what they see as 'unfair investigations' focusing on loyalist paramilitary groups will now be addressed.

A deal on legacy issues could be forced through under direct rule, if Sinn Féin and the DUP fail to restore devolution before the June 29 deadline.

That date coincides with a scheduled court appearance by UVF 'supergrass' Gary Haggarty, who is to be rearranged in relation to a catalogue of paramilitary offences including murder.

Among the information he provided to police, in exchange for a reduced sentence, was details of the murder of Catholic workmen Eamon Fox (44) and Gary Convie (24) by the UVF in 1994

A spokesperson for the Fox family said last night they would "strongly oppose" any blanket amnesty that would obstruct the judicial process.

"Given the years we have waited and the numerous times our hopes have been built up and then dashed, it would be a travesty of justice if the process was stalled, or indeed abandoned, for political gains."

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