Overseas Operations

Ministry of Defence written statement – made on 13th October 2020.

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Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace The Secretary of State for Defence

The Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill currently before this House will provide reassurance to Service personnel that we have taken steps to help protect them from the threat of repeated investigations and potential prosecution in connection with historical operations overseas many years after the events in question. However, we are also clear that there should be timely consideration of serious and credible allegations and, where appropriate, a swift and effective investigation followed by prosecution, if warranted. In the rare cases of real wrongdoing, the culprits should be swiftly and appropriately dealt with. In doing so, this will provide greater certainty to all parties that the justice system processes will deliver an appropriate outcome without undue delay.

I am therefore commissioning a review so that we can be sure that, for those complex and serious allegations of wrongdoing against UK forces which occur overseas on operations, we have the most up to date and future-proof framework, skills and processes in place and can make improvements where necessary. The review will be judge-led and forward looking and, whilst drawing on insights from the handling of allegations from recent operations, will not seek to reconsider past investigative or prosecutorial decisions or reopen historical cases. It will consider processes in the service police and Service Prosecuting Authority as well as considering the extent to which such investigations are hampered by potential barriers in the Armed Forces, for example, cultural issues or operational processes. A key part of the review will be its recommendations for any necessary improvements. It will seek to build upon and not reopen the recommendations of the Service Justice System Review by HH Shaun Lyons and Sir Jon Murphy. Work by the Department in response to the Service Justice System Review is continuing to be taken forward separately.

I expect the review will report to me in around nine months’ time.