The next Prime Minister has a responsibility to act urgently to protect UK troops, whether serving or retired, from ongoing exposure to legal risk and to unfair legal processes. From Northern Ireland to Iraq and Afghanistan, those who served – or who serve still – in the nation’s defence have not been adequately protected. The responsibility to act does not arise solely on the grounds of basic fairness, although this would be sufficient reason for action. The process to which UK troops have been subjected bears on the morale and operational effectiveness of UK forces now, which the Government must address if it is to maintain military capacity and defend the realm.
This paper examines how this sorry state of affairs has arisen and outlines what should now be done to put it right. The paper considers investigations into allegations of historic wrongdoing in Northern Ireland, as well as investigations arising out of recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and proposes reforms to UK law and practice which would more adequately protect those who served.