Northern Ireland news

British government media briefings about Troubles amnesty were 'callous and cavalier' says Justice Minister Naomi Long

Naomi Long said the main consequence of the British government statute of limitations would be to deny victims the right to justice. Picture by Mal McCann

JUSTICE Minister Naomi Long has described the manner in which the British government last week leaked plans for a statute of limitations as "callous and cavalier".

The Alliance leader was speaking yesterday after a meeting with Secretary of State Brandon Lewis.

An outline of the proposal to bar Troubles prosecutions is expected to be included in today's Queen's Speech. The plan emerged last week after London-based journalists were briefed by British government sources.

The statute of limitations is designed to protect British army veterans from prosecution for historic offences, however, the new law would also be expected to apply to paramilitaries.

The move would signal a departure from the mechanisms agreed in 2014's Stormont House Agreement.

Mrs Long said the main consequence of the British government move would be to "deny victims the right to justice even where sufficient evidence to pursue prosecutions is available".

“Whilst we have always recognised with the passage of time justice will not be possible for many families, it is of profound concern even where it is possible the government would seek to deny victims the right to pursue justice," the justice minister said.

The East Belfast MLA said that by trailing a "de facto amnesty" via briefings to the press, instead of engaging directly with victims and survivors' families and their representatives,showed a "callous and cavalier attitude".

"Whilst the secretary of state and his officials have distanced themselves from that briefing, it is nothing short of disgraceful that part of government would behave in such an insensitive and disrespectful manner towards victims," she said.

The Alliance leader said the British government's policy was being shaped by an approach to legacy that is "driven by an entirely false narrative of vexatious prosecution of veterans".

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news