Another 12 Army veterans are facing charges including murder relating to Troubles shootings almost 50 years ago, the Daily Mail can reveal.
Despite ministers’ pledges to protect those who served in Northern Ireland, the province’s Public Prosecution Service has received files relating to a number of historical incidents and decisions on charges are imminent.
Many of the incidents relate to an experimental military group set up to ‘eliminate’ suspected IRA members at the height of the Troubles.
If prosecuted, the soldiers, now in their 60s and 70s, will follow six Northern Ireland veterans including Dennis Hutchings, 79, who have already been charged following ‘legacy’ investigations into shootings dating back decades.
A number of the soldiers have repeatedly been investigated and cleared of wrongdoing only to be reinvestigated by new units set up in Northern Ireland to deal with historical cases.
If prosecuted, the soldiers, now in their 60s and 70s, will follow six Northern Ireland veterans including Dennis Hutchings, 79, (pictured in 1978) who have already been charged following ‘legacy’ investigations into shootings dating back decades
Last year, Boris Johnson promised to bring in laws to protect Northern Ireland veterans, but plans for a new Bill have stalled.
The Overseas Operations Bill, currently making its way through Parliament, is designed to protect those who served in war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan from historical prosecutions. But it does not cover those who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.
Last night, Labour MP and former defence minister Kevan Jones said: ‘These people who served in Northern Ireland didn’t have a choice, they did it because their country asked them to.
‘Were mistakes made? Yes. But I’m not sure what is to be gained now from prosecuting elderly people and those in poor health who have had this hanging over them for years.
‘The Government has failed to bring forward a resolution to this which it needs to do as a matter of urgency. The delays are adding to the torment of brave men and women. The only time these cases should be reopened is if compelling new evidence emerges.’
Five former members of the MRF are awaiting decisions on charges relating to five shootings in Belfast in 1972. Ten people were injured and one, understood to be Patrick McVeigh, 44, was killed near a barricade
Seven of the soldiers awaiting a decision on charges were members of a secret military unit which briefly operated in Northern Ireland in the 1970s.
Known as the Military Reaction Force (MRF), the plain-clothes team used unmarked cars to patrol Belfast and target suspected IRA members.
Five former members of the MRF are awaiting decisions on charges including murder ‘and other grave offences’ relating to five shootings in Belfast in May and June 1972.
Ten people were injured and one, understood to be Patrick McVeigh, 44, was killed near a barricade.
A further two former MRF soldiers face charges over a fatal shooting in Belfast in September 1972.
This is understood to relate to the death of Daniel Rooney, 18, who was shot from an unmarked car. Soldiers said he was armed, but the IRA has never claimed him as a member.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) reopened an inquiry into the MRF after a BBC Panorama investigation in 2013 interviewed former MRF soldiers who said they would shoot at suspects even if they were not under fire.
But the PSNI later said there was ‘no admission to criminality’ by any soldiers featured in the programme.
The MRF operated throughout 1972, the bloodiest year of the Troubles during which 497 people died – mostly civilians killed in bombings or shot by the Provisional IRA.
Mr Hutchings is due to stand trial on an attempted murder charge later this year in relation to a 1974 shooting
The total included 151 soldiers and police officers. The clandestine unit was made up of up 40 soldiers from the SAS, the SBS, the Royal Marines and the Parachute Regiment. It was disbanded in 1973.
Another case under consideration involves five former soldiers. It is understood to relate to the death of James Bell, 24, who was shot dead during the attempted burglary of a restaurant in County Tyrone in August 1980. No weapon was found.
Two former MRF soldiers face charges over a fatal shooting in Belfast in September 1972. This is understood to relate to the death of Daniel Rooney, 18, (pictured) who was shot from an unmarked car
Meanwhile, a former IRA man is due to discover if he will be charged with murder over the deaths of Royal Ulster Constabulary officers Michael Malone and Ernest Caron in 1987.
The Mail has highlighted the case of great-grandfather Mr Hutchings, who is due to stand trial on an attempted murder charge later this year in relation to a 1974 shooting.
He was previously investigated and cleared twice before his arrest in 2015. He now requires kidney dialysis twice a week and is in poor health.
Two former paratroopers are due to stand trial for murder this year over the shooting of Official IRA commander Joe McCann, who was killed in 1972.
One former soldier has been charged with murder and attempted murder in relation to Bloody Sunday. Two others have been charged in relation to shootings in 1972 and 1988.
A Government spokesman said: ‘We have provided a range of support to the veterans involved in these investigations, including funding their legal representation.
‘This Government is committed to introducing legislation to address the complex legacy issues in Northern Ireland.’