Jeremy Corbyn said the ‘law must apply to everyone’, and denied that there was a discrepancy between the investigations into soldiers after Republican suspects were sent ‘comfort letters’ offering effective immunity
Jeremy Corbyn has angered supporters of British veterans after saying former soldiers should face prosecution for the Bloody Sunday shootings, days after a former paratrooper was charged with murder.
The Labour leader told Sophy Ridge on Sunday that the ‘law must apply to everyone’, and denied that there was a discrepancy between the investigations into soldiers after Republican suspects were sent ‘comfort letters’ offering effective immunity from prosecution.
Matthew Jury, of McCue & Partners, who is representing the families of the victims of the Hyde Park bombings, told MailOnline: ‘Shamefully, Corbyn and co continue to stand by Blair’s outrageous decision to do a back-room deal with the IRA to grand terrorists on-the-run effective amnesty – and remember, whatever their protestations, this was not a part of the Good Friday Agreement.
‘All the while they sermonise about no one being above the law. They can’t have it both ways.
‘If they’re going to demonise and pillory Britain’s veterans, then they must also back, not only an unequivocal revocation of the on-the-run letters, but a swooping up of the terrorists themselves to finally face justice.’
It came after the Public Prosecution Service controversially decided to prosecute a man, known as Soldier F, for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney at the civil rights march in Londonderry in 1972.
The decision sparked anger among former servicemen, who pointed out former British soldiers were facing prosecution while IRA men got off Scot free.
Youths confront British soldiers minutes before paratroopers opened fire killing 14 civilians on what became known as Bloody Sunday
Alan Barry, founder of Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans, said: ‘Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, veterans are being left open to prosecution while terrorists have been cleansed of their past crimes.’
Speaking on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Mr Corbyn said: ‘The law must apply to everyone, and I don’t think we should have statutory limitations on this.’
Mr Corbyn said ‘we should have a fair and proper judicial process’ and said what happened on Bloody Sunday was ‘awful and appalling’.
He added: ‘I do think it’s important to have the independence of a legal process, and there has to be an insurance that everyone has to abide by the law.’
He was pressed on whether it was fair given how those members of the IRA suspected of crimes were offered an amnesty in the Northern Irish peace process.
The Labour leader replied: ‘The Good Friday Agreement was important, seminal and complicated, but it does not provide complete immunity for everyone, it was never intended to.’
Shami Chakrabarti criticised the comments of Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson in support of Soldier F, when he said the Government would pay his full legal costs and added: ‘Our serving and former personnel cannot live in constant fear of prosecution.’
She told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show she approves of anyone accused of serious crimes getting ‘full, complete five-star legal aid’.
Soldier F will be charged with the murders of James Wray (left) and William McKinney (right) on Bloody Sunday. Mr Wray, 22, was shot twice in the back. Mr McKinney was film-maker who recorded scenes from the march before the shooting started
But she added: ‘It’s not about wannabe prime ministers who are currently Defence Secretary giving coded messages of support to one defendant or another, its about saying anybody who’s been charged with murder, which is the most serious offence in our law, should get the best possible defence and it should be paid for by the state.’
Asked about Mr Williamson’s suggestion to change the law end prevent soldiers being charged, she said: ‘I don’t think we can do that if we believe in the rule of law.’
Baroness Chakrabarti said it would start a ‘very dangerous precedent if we started granted blanket immunities to anybody in a particular role or profession’.