Former head of British Army calls for end to investigation of soldiers

Sergeant O, who faces the prospect of being prosecuted over his actions during Bloody Sunday The deaths gave the IRA a huge propaganda boost and led to dozens of young people joining their ranks.Ministers have refused to introduce a statute of limitations which would rule out prosecutions against the paratrooper – identified only as Sergeant O – and 17 other former soldiers facing possible charges over Bloody Sunday. This newspaper last week revealed how, in contrast to the current treatment of British troops who served in the province, the suspect for the IRA’s bombing of Hyde Park is living in a luxury beachfront home in Ireland, having transferred ownership to his wife after being sued over the atrocity.John Downey, who denied any responsibility, was charged in 2013 with murdering four members of the Household Cavalry after a nail bomb was detonated in Hyde Park on July 20 1982.He walked free from the Old Bailey in 2014 after it emerged he had received a so-called ‘comfort’ or ‘on the run’ letter dating back to 2007 as part of the Good Friday Agreement peace deal. Lord Bramall, the former head of the Armed Forces, has called for an end to the “macabre charade” that could see soldiers prosecuted for their actions in Northern Ireland.He said it was “absurd and unfair” that troops who took part in the events of Bloody Sunday more than four decades ago should now be facing questioning by the police.Writing in The Telegraph on Thursday Lord Bramall, who served as head of the British Army from 1979 to 1982 before becoming chief of the Defence Staff from 1982 to 1985, calls for an immediate end to the police investigations.He writes: “It is absurd and grossly unfair that 46 years after the tragic event generally known as Bloody Sunday that the Northern Ireland Police Service should still be harrying and questioning individual soldiers of the British Army, some in their 70’s and in ill health, in a desperate attempt to pin criminal charges for what happened all those years ago.“In the interests of justice, fair play and even handedness the Government must, by whatever means, put a stop at once to this macabre charade.”Lord Bramall’s call comes after The Daily Telegraph disclosed how a 76-year-old former paratrooper was interviewed under caution for attempted murder for firing his rifle and dislodging masonry which may have hit two protesters, possibly injuring them, during Bloody Sunday in 1972 in which 14 civilians were killed by British paratroopers in Londonderry. Father Edward Daly, who was later made Bishop of Derry, appealing for an end to the shootings on ‘Bloody Sunday’, 30 Jan 1972 Sergeant O was interviewed under caution in April 2016 and is still to be told whether charges will be brought.The police began a criminal investigation in 2012 after a 12-year inquiry led by Lord Saville concluded in 2010 that paratroopers had “lost control”, causing the deaths.Lord Bramall goes on to say: “Bearing in mind the time span, the shortage of reliable witnesses and the various imponderables and special circumstances of that specific area of operations at that time, it was always going to be difficult, if not impossible, to pin serious charges on a particular individual.“There certainly never had been any premeditation to target a particular individual – indeed, Lord Saville described the fire as ‘indiscriminate’. In such circumstances a soldier has only a split second to make the decision, which was often made under the most extreme circumstances and within a hostile and dangerous environment.” Father Edward Daly, who was later made Bishop of Derry, appealing for an end to the shootings on 'Bloody Sunday', 30 Jan 1972 Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Sergeant O, who faces the prospect of being prosecuted over his actions during Bloody SundayCredit:Jay Williams for The Telegraph Sir Nick Carter, the new head of the Armed Forces, last week said if veterans of the Northern Ireland conflict were not protected against “vexatious claims” it would risk “undermining our combat ethos and our fighting spirit”. read more