Justice delayed is justice denied, and MP Richard Drax is right to welcome that cases against UK service people will not be allowed to drag on for unconscionably long years.

But Mr Drax gives a very selective account. Swift justice is owed to the victim as well as the accused, which means that investigations must be not only timely but thorough and definitive.

One problem that Mr Drax does not make clear in the recent case he cites is that the original investigation was carried out by people who did not know their legal business, hence the two soldiers concerned were ordered to make statements without having been cautioned and without access to an independent lawyer.

The evidence against them was thus, and rightly, declared inadmissible. In the circumstances it should never have come to court.

Nor is it the case that things have significantly improved in more recent times. In Iraq, the death, effectively murder, of Baha Mousa with 93 injuries from what was later described as torture was initially dismissed with no case to answer.

A subsequent inquiry revealed that many British soldiers had been engaged in his mistreatment, including offences under both domestic law and the Geneva Conventions, and that a significant number of officers must have been aware of what was happening.

The delays and botched investigation resulted in only 7 soldiers being charged, of whom six were declared innocent for lack of crucial evidence, and one soldier was found guilty on a comparatively minor charge.

The recent act, while welcome in some important respects, will prove merely an indemnity for illegality unless there is a radical overhaul of how investigations are carried out. I wish Mr Drax had been more explicit about those concerns.


Romulus Close, Dorchester