Dr Julian Lewis: Does the Secretary of State accept that the primary problem is not repeated prosecution, but repeated reinvestigation? The Bill does little to rule that out. With the sorts of cases that he has outlined, the problem has been the innumerable investigations. They are what were so traumatic for the troops, not the tiny number of prosecutions. As the former Attorney General for Northern Ireland says:
“Nothing in the Bill limits the investigation of offences – even outside the period of five years … The Bill impliedly contemplates the possibility of multiple investigations.”
That, I am afraid, is where the Bill falls down.
[The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Ben Wallace): First, the Bill deals with two parts of why often people are investigated. One is under civil proceedings, where they are investigated or interviewed, or involved in the inquest. Many of those personnel find themselves repeatedly interviewed, either as a suspect or, indeed, through constant summonses as a witness in an inquest. As we know from a number of cases, that has happened on multiple occasions. That is why the second part of the Bill deals with the civil route and the first part deals with the criminal bit.
On the criminal bit, one change is the requirement after five years for a number of thresholds to be gone through before a decision to prosecute is progressed. We think those thresholds are enough to make sure that investigators, or the prosecutor, before perhaps embarking on a repeat investigation – for example, if there has already been one – have to have regard that this is important new evidence. In my experience, investigators do not just investigate for investigation’s sake; they investigate to reach a point of prosecution. If they feel that a prosecution is unlikely, they will not pursue it. I feel that will therefore reduce the number of investigations.
My right hon. Friend also makes the point, in regard to the critics, that the Bill does not prevent prosecution in certain circumstances of egregious crimes committed either against humanity or our treaty obligations at all. That is really important. We will never prevent new evidence from producing a prosecution if a crime has been committed.]
[For Julian's speech in this debate click here .]