The Troubles: Ben Wallace says no Army prosecutions without new evidence

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Ben Wallace said the government had to make sure veterans were not “treated badly”

Army veterans who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles should not be prosecuted without new evidence, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said.

He was speaking after an event marking the 50th anniversary of troops being deployed in Northern Ireland in what the Army refers to as Operation Banner.

He said “99.99%” of those who served had obeyed and upheld the law.

But a group representing those killed or injured by the military have criticised him.

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A number of former soldiers are facing prosecution in connection with Troubles-era killings

It comes as a number of veterans, including an ex-paratrooper known as Soldier F, are facing prosecution.

The government is working on legislation to deal with the legacy of the Troubles.

Mr Wallace, who was a soldier and served in Northern Ireland, spoke to the BBC after a ceremony to mark Operation Banner.

He said it was important “to deal with new evidence when it’s presented if there is an allegation of breaking the law”.

“No-one is above the law,” he added.

“The British Army uphold British values, which is the rule of law, and that’s what we stand for.

“That’s why were are better than the terrorists.”

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AFP/Getty Images

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The government is working on legislation to deal with the legacy of the Troubles

He said the government had to make sure veterans were not “treated badly” and that they would be “properly supported” by the Ministry of Defence.

“We’ve got to treat our veterans properly,” he added.

“We’re not going to have this endless fishing inquest circle that’s gone round and round in circles and not actually fixed the problem.”

He said it was important that veterans “don’t get knocks in the middle of the night when they are in their 70s and pose no risk to anybody else”.

The defence secretary added that “99.99%” of soldiers who served in Northern Ireland “obeyed the law, upheld the law and protected people who could not protect themselves from both loyalist violence and republican violence”.

“That’s something we should be proud of and it’s something we achieved.”

Andree Murphy from the victims’ group Relatives For Justice said his comments “make life difficult”.

“By creating this emphasis on military veterans what has happened is that the debate has become almost intractable,” she said.

“We need to retreat back into looking at principles of rule of law; we need to look at principles of human rights and see the obligations of the British government.

“From there we can start to deliver to victims, no matter who they were affected by.

She added: “For families affected by state violations what it says to them is that their harm is less.

“We cannot be a transitional society that treats any of the victims of our conflict like that.”

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