The new head of the armed forces says he will not allow British soldiers to be chased by people making vexatious claims about their conduct in the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Chief of the Defense Staff General Sir Nick Carter told the BBC serving and former service personnel should face action for genuine wrongdoing, but he vowed groundless cases will not happen on my watch.
A government consultation was launched in May into the legacy of the period.
The consultation includes plans for a new Historical Investigations Unit, with policing powers, which will look at claims against former soldiers.
This week, the Daily Telegraph reported on a former paratrooper already being investigated over two allegations of attempted murder during Bloody Sunday in 1972.
The 76-year-old was interviewed under caution in 2016. He was awarded the Military Medal for bravery during the 1972 tour.
Sir Nick would not comment on any of the specific cases being examined. But he said people should remember Northern Ireland wouldn't be in position we are in now if Army had not done remarkable job there for more than 30 years.
It is right and proper that if our soldiers have done something wrong they should clearly be investigated and held to account for it, but only if they've genuinely done something wrong, he said. What is fundamentally wrong though is if they are chased by people who are making vexatious claims. That will not happen on my watch.
He added: If you end up with a clutch of vexatious claims then that undermines morale and has the risk of undermining our combat ethos and our fighting spirit.
Sir Nick's predecessor, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, had said he was deeply uncomfortable at the prospect of veterans being investigation for actions which occurred during the Troubles.
Government ministers have also reportedly been at odds over whether military veterans will be offered enough protection during the investigation.
In June, Defense Minister Tobias Ellwood - a former Army officer - said the consultation should include a statute of limitations, preventing the prosecution of former soldiers for historical offences.
Sir Nick also said it was important that Britain's military is properly funded at a time of increasing threats, adding that discussions with the Treasury were still ongoing.
People understand the complexity of the world we now find ourselves in, he said.
The key thing is we've got to spend our money as cleverly as we can and use our money wisely to modernize the armed forces for what is going to be a difficult future.
He added the character of warfare is changing and with the involvement of technology miscalculation could lead to war and that is what we need to be very careful about”. (BBC).-