Robert speaks out against historic allegations against veterans

Robert is presenting a petition to Parliament on this issue during Armed Forces Week.

Sign the petition here.

Robert said, "It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Streeter. I rise to speak with a great deal of humility, having heard the distinguished speakers who have gone before me, who have served and who have great experience in such matters. I rise only because I would like to add something from a slightly different perspective. I have not served; I am a lawyer and I approach the debate from a legal perspective, because there is a legal as well as a moral element to it.

"By nature, I am very cautious about the increasing role of law in warfare, simply because the mindset of a lawyer is so different from that of a soldier, by necessity. Lawyers are cautious and risk-averse. They explore every option. That avenue simply is not available in circumstances such as those described by my hon. Friend James Heappey. The military are all about the can-do attitude that was described by my right hon. Friend Richard Benyon. That is even more the case when we look at cases in retrospect.

"As my hon. Friend Leo Docherty has just said, nobody is suggesting that the military should be able to act with impunity; all that is expected is natural justice and fairness. If laws of war or engagement are broken, of course they should be held to account, but not years and years after the event. The spectacle of repeated historical allegations is absolutely deplorable, and set against a set of standards that were often simply not available at the time. IHATis a classic example of that, and Northern Ireland much more recently.

"I would like to add one thought on a limitation Act, from a civil law perspective. I used to practise in an area of industrial disease, representing people who had suffered from horrible illnesses such as mesothelioma. In those circumstances there is a statute of limitations—the Limitation Act 1980—so after a certain amount of time companies can expect not to be pursued. There are good reasons for that: memories fade, documents get lost, standards change, and knowledge and attitudes change. Therefore, after a reasonable amount of time, they have a reasonable expectation that they will not continue to be pursued.

"Here there is a clear imbalance. For example, the IRA did not keep records, while the British Army does. In civil law we would look at things very differently. I entirely support the suggestion for a statute of limitations simply because we have a similar thing in civil law. We are currently providing assistance and protection to historical industrial companies that are facing only civil claims and not soldiers, who may face serious matters that would turn their lives upside down.

"Our veterans should be entitled to know that when they serve, they can go home with gratitude and not have to look over their shoulders for the rest of their lives. The Government should be clear. The public view the spectacle of Britain turning on its own with absolute disgust. We must bring peace to veterans who have worked so hard to bring peace to us."