Ministry Of Defence
We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our armed forces, who perform exceptional feats in incredibly difficult circumstances to protect this country.
At the same time, the armed forces are not above the law. Our service men and women are rightly held to the highest standards of personal behaviour and conduct, and credible allegations of serious criminality must be investigated.
We also owe our service personnel and veterans justice and fairness. When serving personnel and veterans are subject to repeated investigations, with no new evidence, in connection with historical operations many years after the original events, it has the potential to do great damage to morale, and to undermine not only operational effectiveness, but also our ability to recruit future service personnel.
That is why the government has introduced this important Bill, providing greater legal protections to armed forces personnel and veterans serving on military operations overseas. It will help to reduce the uncertainty faced by our service personnel and veterans. It also looks to the future, providing a better legal framework for any future overseas conflicts, recognising the unique burden and pressures placed on our personnel.
The Bill will create a new triple lock in order to give service personnel and veterans greater certainty that the unique pressures placed on them during overseas operations will be taken into account when prosecutions decisions are made concerning alleged historical offences.
This triple lock consists of:
- a presumption against prosecution in respect of alleged offences committed on overseas military operations more than five years ago, pursuant to which decisions to bring proceedings in such cases will be exceptional
- a requirement for prosecutors to give particular weight to certain matters in reaching decisions in such cases
- a requirement to obtain the consent of the Attorney General or, in the case of Northern Ireland, the Advocate General, before a prosecution can proceed.
The bill will also:
- require the court to consider the operational context when deciding whether to extend the normal time limits for bringing civil claims for personal injury or death and for bringing claims under the Human Rights Act (HRA) in connection with overseas operations
- introduce a long-stop restricting to an absolute maximum of 6 years the time limit for bringing civil claims for personal injury or death and for bringing HRA claims in connection with overseas operations
- ensure that all future governments are compelled to consider derogating from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in relation to significant overseas military operations.
The Bill does not apply to operations within the United Kingdom, including events which took place in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. However, the government is committed to bringing forward appropriate protections for all service personnel and veterans. The government will introduce separate legislation to address the legacy of the past in Northern Ireland in a way that focuses on reconciliation, delivers for victims, and ends the cycle of re-investigations into the troubles that has failed victims and veterans alike, ensuring equal treatment of Northern Ireland veterans and those who served overseas.
The Bill follows a consultation held in the summer of 2019 which heard the publics views on legal protections proposals.
The Bill was introduced to Parliament on 18 March 2020.
Documents related to the Overseas Operations (service personnel and Veterans) Bill are above and can be viewed on the Parliament website .