Boris Johnson has promised to end the “unfair” prosecutions of Northern Ireland veterans if he becomes prime minister.

The Tory leadership front runner has given his backing to a public campaign supporting UK soldiers who served during the Troubles.

He joins fellow contender, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, in making the pledge.

British paratroopers take away civil rights demonstrators on 'Bloody Sunday'
Image: A number of veterans are facing charges – including Soldier F in relation to Bloody Sunday in 1972

Speaking at his campaign headquarters on Thursday, Mr Johnson told The Sun: “We need to end unfair trials of people who served their Queen and country when no new evidence has been produced, and when the accusations have already been exhaustively questioned in court.

“We must protect people against unfair prosecutions. And I will.

“I totally support the principle of cross-government work to secure world-class care and support for veterans.

“There will be a minister with particular responsibilities for veterans in cabinet.”

The pledge comes as a number of Northern Ireland veterans face charges.

This includes Soldier F, who has been charged in relation to the killings of two protesters in Londonderry in 1972 on Bloody Sunday.

MP Johnny Mercer, a supporter of Mr Johnson, hailed the news. He wrote on Twitter: “Extraordinary news to wake up to.

“For the first time in her history, the UK will have an Office for Veteran’s affairs under the next prime minister.

“This week has seen the biggest shift in policy by any government towards her Veterans in decades. Like I said: we will get there.”

Plymouth MP Johnny Mercer at his office at the Houses of Parliament in London before making his first speech to the House of Commons.
Image: Johnny Mercer, MP for Plymouth Moor View, has hailed the news

Speaking in the Commons on Monday, former defence minister Mark Francois said the investigations were a “deep insult”.

“One group of veterans who undoubtedly deserve our respect are the veterans of Northern Ireland who served for years on Operation Banner to uphold the rule of law against the IRA,” he said.

“Yet some of them now face subsequent investigations 50 years on, even including Chelsea Pensioners, while the IRA are scot-free with letters of comfort from Tony Blair.

“Does the Secretary of State agree with me that, as some have recently suggested, to quote ‘treat both sides the same’ is not only patently ludicrous but a deep insult to those veterans without whose courage there never would have been a Good Friday Agreement in the first place?”

Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt responded: “Although we have obligations under the Stormont House Agreement and we have to approach these things in different ways, our obligations to our veterans, whether they served on an operation on UK soil or whether they served on an operation overseas, are the same obligations.”

Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt
Image: Penny Mordaunt has said she wants to ensure those who served in Northern Ireland have similar protection to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans

Ms Mordaunt revealed plans earlier this year to give veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan stronger protection from repeated investigations into historical allegations.

Legislation would ensure there would be a “presumption against prosecution” for alleged incidents dating back more than 10 years unless there are “exceptional circumstances”.

At the moment, this provision will not apply to Northern Ireland veterans.

Although, seemingly in a break with government policy, Ms Mordaunt has said she wants to find a way to make sure those who served there can be given similar protection to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

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