The British Government has announced it is effectively ending all prosecutions related to crimes committed during the Northern Ireland Troubles.
Described as an amnesty for former British soldiers and former paramilitaries, the new statute of limitations will apply to incidents prior to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
It was confirmed in parliament on Wednesday (14th July) by Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis.
Speaking on the issue Mr Lewis said:
“We know that the prospect of the end of criminal prosecutions will be difficult for some to accept and this is not a position we take lightly.”
“But we’ve come to the view that this is the best and only way to facilitate an effective information retrieval and provision process, and the best way to help Northern Ireland move further along the road to reconciliation.”
Mr Lewis said it was “clear the current system for dealing with the legacy of the Troubles is not working”.
“It’s now a difficult, in fact painful, truth that the focus on criminal investigations is increasingly unlikely to deliver successful criminal justice outcomes, but all the while it continues to divide communities and it fails to obtain answers for a majority of victims and families.”
Mr Lewis said the government would legislate to set up a new independent body to focus on the recovery and provision of information about Troubles-related deaths and most serious injuries.
“This body will be focused on helping families to find out the truth of what happened to their loved ones. Where families do not want the past raked over again they would be able to make this clear.”
The move is opposed by all five of the main political parties in Northern Ireland and by the Irish Government.