A former British solider and a former IRA prisoner have united to warn that there cannot be a one-sided prosecutions amnesty in Northern Ireland.

Lee Lavis and Michael Culbert spoke to Sky News as the British Army prepared to mark 50 years since troops were first deployed to Belfast.

Operation Banner, which ran from 1969 until 2007, remains the longest continuous deployment for the British military.

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Lee Lavis (right) and Michael Culbert talked to Sky News about the Troubles

A total of 300,000 soldiers were sent on to the streets of Northern Ireland. More than 1,400 of them were murdered during the Troubles.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has supported calls for a statute of limitations to prevent the prosecution of soldiers charged with historical offences in Northern Ireland.

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But under international law, any amnesty for veterans is likely to apply to former members of the paramilitary groups too.

Mr Lavis, a former member of the Staffordshire Regiment, said politicians calling for an amnesty need to “be honest” about what that really means.

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A British soldier of the Queen's Regiment on duty beside a barricade in the Falls Road area of Belfast in 1969
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A British soldier of the Queen’s Regiment on duty beside a barricade in the Falls Road area of Belfast in 1969

“They know that by calling for an amnesty for British soldiers, it becomes a de facto amnesty for all,” he added.

Mr Culbert, who served 16 years of a life sentence for the murder of a police officer, dismisses claims of a witch-hunt against former British soldiers.

“Twenty-five thousand of us have been through the prisons, sentenced through the courts, for actions against the British state during the conflict,” he explains.

British troops of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders with armoured cars in the city of Belfast in Northern Ireland on routine patrol in 1973
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British troops of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders with armoured cars in Belfast in 1973

Some believe all parties should be immune from prosecution. Others argue that victims and their relatives must retain the right to pursue justice.

Both men agree that there are other options on the table for addressing legacy issues, already agreed by Northern Ireland’s politicians but never implemented.

Mr Culbert said: “I would rather have an information retrieval process, where families can find out information which they are seeking.

“You hear that what most families are wanting to know is the why and maybe some circumstances,” he added.

RUC officers with riot shields in Bellaghy, Northern Ireland, during a stand off between Catholics and Protestants during the annual marching season
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RUC officers with riot shields in Bellaghy, Northern Ireland, during a stand-off between Catholics and Protestants during the annual marching season

Earlier this year, a former member of the Parachute Regiment, became the sixth veteran to learn he would be charged with historical offences in Northern Ireland.

Identified only as ‘Soldier F’, he faces two murder charges in relation to the events of Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in 1972.

To date, the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland has made decisions on 27 historical cases – 13 Republican, eight Loyalist and six British Army.