BRACKNELL MP James Sunderland last night gave his full support to a new law which will make it harder for military veterans to be prosecuted for their past actions.

The overseas operations bill, which received huge backing from MPs after Labour largely abstained from the vote, will give military personnel a ‘triple lock’ protection against vexatious claims.

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Ministers said it seeks to limit false allegations arising from overseas operations by introducing a statutory presumption against prosecution, making it more difficult for soldiers to be taken to court more than five years after an incident.

Bracknell MP James Sunderland, who served in the army for 27 years before becoming the town’s Westminster representative, backed the legislation during a debate yesterday (September 23).

He said: “I am a great fan of the Bill and the Bill is right. We need to put it through.

“At its simplest level, the imposition of a presumption in law against prosecution after five years will provide greater certainty for our service personnel.”

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Mr Sunderland said that since 2002, around 70 per cent of allegations of unlawful killings in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan received by the Iraq Historic Allegations Team have been filtered out as “spurious”.

He described these accusations and other inquiries into alleged wrongdoing as “the tip of the iceberg” and have caused “anguish” for veterans.

The Bracknell MP continued: “The bottom line is that veterans I have spoken to over the years are worried about the next knock at the door.

“I believe that the Bill will give certainty to the current generation and to who those come afterwards.”

Critics of the bill say the legislation will create a presumption against the prosecution of torture and other serious crimes.

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Labour’s Nadia Whittome, who voted against the plans, described the bill as “flawed” and “damaging” after suggesting ‘war crimes would be more difficult to investigate’.

But Mr Sunderland rebuffed opposition to the legislation, stating: “The Bill does not provide blanket immunity for soldiers to commit war crimes.”

He added: “Indeed, the suggestion in some of what I have read that the best trained and best led armed forces in the world are somehow predisposed to inflicting torture or sex crimes on operations is ridiculous.

“It is deeply offensive to those who serve, and the people who peddle this nonsense just need to stop.”

The Bill passed its second reading with a majority of 254 votes after Conservative MPs including Mr Sunderland backed the legislation, and just 77 MPs voted against it.

Most of Labour’s MPs abstained on the bill, with 18 members voting against it.

The Bill will now be considered at committee stage before it returns to the House of Commons later in the year.