Northern Ireland news

Jeremy Corbyn says soldiers must be held to account after Bloody Sunday murder charge

Jeremy Corbyn said it is right that members of the armed forces are held to account for incidents during the Troubles

JEREMY Corbyn said it is right that members of the Armed Forces are held to account for incidents during the Troubles after a British soldier was charged with murder over Bloody Sunday.

The Labour leader said the "law must apply to everyone", and denied that there was a discrepancy between the investigations into soldiers after Republican suspects were sent "comfort letters" offering effective immunity from prosecution.

It came after the Public Prosecution Service said there was enough evidence to prosecute a man, known as Soldier F, for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney at the civil rights march in Derry in 1972.

He is expected to be charged within weeks.

It is also understood that Soldier F will be brought to a court in Northern Ireland after he is formally charged with the murders as well as the attempted murder of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O'Donnell.

Speaking on Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Mr Corbyn said the law must apply to everyone.

"I don't think we should have statutory limitations on this," he said.

Read more: Bloody Sunday troops would qualify for early release, says Karen Bradley

Mr Corbyn added that "we should have a fair and proper judicial process" and said what happened on Bloody Sunday was "awful and appalling".

"I do think its important to have the independence of a legal process, and there has to be an insurance that everyone has to abide by the law," he said.

He was pressed on whether it was fair given how those members of the IRA suspected of crimes were offered an amnesty in the peace process.

The Labour leader replied: "The Good Friday Agreement was important, seminal and complicated, but it does not provide complete immunity for everyone, it was never intended to."

Labour's shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti, meanwhile, criticised the comments of Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson in support of Soldier F, when he said the government would pay his full legal costs and added: "Our serving and former personnel cannot live in constant fear of prosecution."

Read moreBloody Sunday families say they are 'not finished yet' as only one soldier set to face prosecution

She told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show she approves of anyone accused of serious crimes getting "full, complete five-star legal aid".

But she added: "It's not about wannabe prime ministers who are currently defence secretary giving coded messages of support to one defendant or another, it's about saying anybody who's been charged with murder, which is the most serious offence in our law, should get the best possible defence and it should be paid for by the state."

Asked about Mr Williamson's suggestion to change the law end prevent soldiers being charged, she said: "I don't think we can do that if we believe in the rule of law."

Baroness Chakrabarti said it would start a "very dangerous precedent if we started granted blanket immunities to anybody in a particular role or profession".

Read more: Karen Bradley apologises after saying security force killings were 'not crimes'

The Bloody Sunday families reacted with disappointment after it was revealed by Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Herron on Thursday that only one ex-soldier would be charged in connection with the 1972 killings.

Later, Bloody Sunday Trust chairman Tony Doherty called on Secretary of State Karen Bradley to resign over comments.

Mrs Bradley said "we are indebted to those who served with courage and distinction to bring peace to Northern Ireland" before offering "deepest sympathy" for the suffering of the families.

Mr Doherty, whose father Patrick was one of those killed, said: "Her crassness is fathomless. The British army did not bring peace. To the people of Derry, the Parachute Regiment brought murder, mayhem and injustice."

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