Northern Ireland news

INLA threatened me at home after I gave evidence at trial, MP Bob Stewart tells commons

Bob Stewart MP, a former British army officer has told fellow MPs of how he was threatened by paramilitaries after giving evidence against INLA members

TORY MP and former British army officer Bob Stewart has told how republican paramilitaries came to his house to kill him after he gave evidence in a trial over a bomb explosion in Northern Ireland.

MPs were silent as Mr Stewart told how people shouted "You're a dead man" from the public gallery when he testified against members of the INLA, who detonated a bomb at a nightclub popular with British Soldiers in Ballykelly in 1982.

Mr Stewart (Beckenham) said paramilitaries later approached his 13-year-old son when he was serving as a Lieutenant Colonel with Nato in Brussels to ask if "his daddy was home" but his son lied and told them Mr Stewart was at work.

His comments came as MPs approved the use of non-jury trials in Northern Ireland for at least two years to prevent intimidation and jury manipulation in sensitive cases.

Mr Stewart, who was commended for his actions at Ballykelly, said: "There was no jury but if there had of been, they would have been grossly intimidated about what happened in that court.

"Throughout the evidence I gave I was barracked from the public gallery, with words like 'You're a dead man', 'You've had it'."

He went on: "For my part, I was placed on a published terrorist death list. Indeed a few years later a terrorist team came to my house in Brussels where I was serving as a Lieutenant Colonel in Nato, got out of their car and spoke to my 13-year-old son playing in the front garden.

"They intended to kill me."

Mr Stewart said the men left after being told he was at work and went on to kill two servicemen on the German border later that day.

"They were trying to take vengeance on me for giving evidence in a court and I dread to think how much intimidation there would have been for people who would have been in the jury on that case," he said.

Minister Chloe Smith said that while the government was committed to ending the "exceptional" circumstances, the threat from paramilitaries in Northern Ireland was still a risk to the criminal justice system.

Introducing the legislation to the Commons, Northern Ireland minister Ms Smith said paramilitaries still posed a "lethal threat", with the security situation not improving since the regulations were last renewed two years ago.

"I want to assure members that the government wishes to end the exceptional system of non-jury trials as soon as it is no longer necessary.

"But this should only happen when the circumstances allow, otherwise we risk allowing violence and intimidation to undermine the criminal justice process in Northern Ireland."

There have been four such trials in 2017, following on from 19 in 2016, Ms Smith said.

The order on the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act also means the non-jury trial system will form part of the act's independent annual review.

The two-year extension will come into effect in August.

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