Aidan McAnespie case show legacy bill should be reviewed

Every killing carried out during our long and bloody Troubles, regardless of the background of the victim, was not just entirely wrong but also cruel and only capable of causing huge grief and bitterness on all sides for generations to come.

While both loyalists and republicans were responsible for many appalling acts, it needs to be accepted that a particular spotlight must always be placed on atrocities linked in any way to the forces of the state.

It can only be shocking when those who are armed and trained to uphold the rule of law and order in all circumstances end up killing the very citizens they are supposed to be protecting.

The number of British soldiers who were ever held to account after individual and multiple deaths was remarkably low, and often followed tortuous legal proceeding which ran into many decades.

It took just under 35 years for the family of Aidan McAnespie to finally obtain a conviction and sentence, after he was shot dead while walking past a military installation when he indisputably posed no risk to anyone, and they deserve enormous credit for their fortitude.

The symbolism attached to the tragedy was unmistakable as Mr McAnespie (23) was in the process of crossing the Tyrone/Monaghan border from his home village of Aughnacloy to attend a GAA match.

He had decided to give up driving his car to games because, as he previously testified in a newspaper interview, he was so regularly stopped and threatened at the same checkpoint by British soldiers who said openly they were going to kill him.

Last week, a former member of the Grenadier Guards regiment, David Jonathan Holden, aged 18 when the shooting happened, was given a three year jail term, which as expected was suspended for three years, for the manslaughter of Mr McAnespie.

He said that, while on duty in an elevated sangar, his finger slipped on the trigger of a powerful machine gun, with the result that three shots were discharged and Mr McAnespie was hit in the back.

However, the trial judge said that Holden had been grossly negligent, gave a dishonest account to both police and later to the court and at no stage expressed remorse for killing Mr McAnespie.

Even at this late stage, the British government should accept that its deeply flawed legacy legislation would out all similar fully justified prosecutions in future and as a result fundamentally review its approach.