For the Daily Telegraph: Outrageous treatment of our soldiers is Britain’s ‘dirty little secret’

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For the Daily Telegraph: Outrageous treatment of our soldiers is Britain’s ‘dirty little secret’

This week we have exposed what is fast becoming Britain’s dirty little secret.

I sat down with one of the lawyers representing over 200 servicemen and women who have had to turn to the private sector for legal and pastoral support which should have been provided, with bells on, by the MoD.

She cannot breach client confidentiality; I will not pressure anyone I know going through this hell to speak out. So I asked her for some themes from her statements.

Some I knew. Threatening arrest, no cautions given, interviewing current colleagues of whom many were not in the Army at the time of the incidents, yet alone served in Iraq.

Then there were the ones I didn’t. Witness statements being changed; interviews in car parks; orders to not inform wives and families. One individual was asked to meet investigators in a shopping centre where he was then taken to a waiting car and asked if he would be willing to be a paid informant for the IHAT team. Worryingly this was confirmed by an unconnected second source later in the week.

Then on Thursday evening another soldier spoke to me. He sounded a broken man.

“I have kept this from my family and loved ones for 13 years. At no stage has the Army offered to help me in that time. I feel embittered. I cannot believe it has come up again. The impact has been devastating. I have had to go and see the doctor; he referred me to the Department of Community Mental Health. That alone petrifies me; I don’t want to be labelled as ‘Mental’ but I know I need help.”

I sat on the sofa with my head in my hands. And then I went for a run across the moor. It comes with the rank-slide, the shared sacrifice, the brotherhood.

This betrayal simply has to end. The Prime Minister is a strong advocate for our Armed Forces. In the domestic counter-terrorism world in her previous job as Home Secretary she was deeply admired and respected for her attitude to looking after those doing these difficult jobs.

But she needs to grasp that our attitude towards looking after this Afghanistan/Iraq generation of Servicemen and women will define this Nation’s relationship with its Military for the next fifty years.

We must not emasculate our Armed Forces on operations by asking our fighting troops to adhere to European Human rights law, designed in good faith for civilian life in Europe. To continue ask our troops to do so belies a fundamental, deep and profound misunderstanding of combat; it creates a gaping chasm between those who serve and their political masters. It looks incompetent; and it is.

We cannot be content with platitudes from the despatch box about looking after our people when the evidence is so strong for the contrary – it again profoundly divides those who serve and their political masters, and looks incompetent.

Instead of endlessly talking about what we are putting into this subject, we need to listen to our people about how it feels for them. Our loyalty should be first and foremost to our people, not our personal reputations.

We are a Sovereign State; we can protect our men and women from these claims. We can establish a Department for Veteran’s affairs to co-ordinate services for Veterans, including those going through this process. We can create a Minister’s role with an independent budget, a seat at the cabinet table and cross-departmental authority to ensure the Military Covenant is adhered to. In a survey for SSAFA in June, almost half of our Armed Forces hadn’t heard of the Covenant, despite it being law for five years.

And that would say to our Armed Forces and Veterans we ‘get it’. Amongst the complexities of BREXIT, the cruel and turbulent world we live in, and an ever-surprising political scene, ‘we get it’ in the United Kingdom.

Freedom is not free. We have a precious country, one which some of us were only too keen to defend in the traditions of the immense sacrifices of our forefathers. We owe our Servicemen and women for their service, their sacrifice.

/ Articles, National Print

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Comments (3)

  1. John R Harvey :

    Dear Mr Mercer,
    Thank you for your continued engagement w armed forces issues. I find it obscene that the mendacity of some members of the legal profession have been allowed to ” let the horse push the cart”, particularly in relation to IHAT, which was government sanctioned. When I was serving, there were enough MP’s in the house who had served with the colours; there was an innate understanding within the House of the needs of servicemen, & few would have had any sympathy for the venality that drives the litigious lawyers forward. This nonsense needs to be ended, & those guilty of falsely attempting to convict innocent soldiers be arraigned on serious charges ( aiding a national enemy?[still possible]), instead of continuing to cause grief & trouble for their own enrichment.
    In November, I will be organising the annual Remembrance at the Sangro river cemetery, as I do every year. If you would like to attend, there will be battlefield tours as well as the ceremony, and of course the “after proceedings (!)”. You will be accomodated, wined & dined -it will be both sombre, and uplifting. And as every year, it will be “tshirt order”, and, usually there are a few West Countrymen. Give the talk at the Cross of Remembrance, and you will accrue no costs, except for the flight to Pescara or Rome!
    In the meantime, I wish you well, and am grateful that there are still decent members like yourself that are concerned!
    With all my very good wishes,
    John R Harvey
    Ex: 24161727, X((V) PARA

  2. Steve Shaw :

    I served in the Army for 18 years before joining the MOD Police for the next 25 years and have now retired. I have served in some of the worlds grottiest places. NI (5Tours), Falklands (82) Oman, etc. Also I served as a Police Officer in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan so, feel more than qualified to comment on the treatment of our troops which I find utterly deplorable. The MOD loves to go after it’s own because they are an easy captive target. The weight of public opinion in favour of our troops is overwhelming and there is obvious support from some MP’s (the opposition leader not being among them!)But, more pressure has to be applied to stop this witch hunt that appeases the left wing and the liberals who are undermining the morale of the Services who are only doing the job they were sent to do by the government of the day, therefore protecting them and their way of life. The public can do no more than voice an opinion on the internet, it is up to MP’s who are elected by that public to listen and act on their behalf before it’s to late!

  3. Richard Fullerton :

    Words fail me. It isn’t just the betrayal by successive governments, or the greedy, immoral so-called human rights lawyers. It’s also the unrelenting and underhand behaviour of the other uniformed service – the police – which disgusts me.

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