Guidance

Operational legacy investigations and inquests – help for veterans

The Operational Legacy Support Team provides support to veterans and serving personnel with regard to legacy operations.

Contact Us

Telephone: 01264 382842 or 01264 382854 Mobile: 07813 007392

These numbers operate during normal working hours.

Email: apsg-perssvcs-op-legacy-mailbox@mod.gov.uk

Postal Address:

Operational Legacy Support Team
Army Personnel Services Group
Ramillies Building
Army Headquarters
Monxton Road
Andover
SP11 8HJ

Army Personnel Services Group

Overview of the Army Operational Legacy

Serving and retired Army personnel are engaged in various legal processes arising from legacy operations. The operational legacy is multi-faceted and includes criminal investigations under the Service Justice System (SJS), civilian criminal investigations, civil litigation, inquests and, when directed, public enquiries.

The Operational Legacy Support Team within the Army Personnel Services Group is a small, dedicated team which provides the Army’s lead for support and advice to veterans and serving personnel on matters relating to legacy operations. Our purpose is to provide assistance to personnel affected by the legacy processes arising from operations in Northern Ireland (Op BANNER), Iraq (Op TELIC) and Afghanistan (Op HERRICK).

Personnel from the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force affected by operational legacy matters are invited to contact the Operational Legacy Support Team within the Army Personnel Service Group who will provide details of the support available from their respective single Services.

Northern Ireland

Support to Coroners Inquests

As part of wider efforts to address the legacy of the troubles, the attorney general of Northern Ireland has directed that a number of troubles related deaths be further investigated by new inquests. A coroner’s inquest is held to establish the facts surrounding a death it is not to determine criminal or civil liability. In order to assist with these inquests, the Northern Ireland coroners office is seeking those individuals who were witnesses to the various incidents.

The Secretary of State has confirmed that the Ministry of Defence will meet its obligations to the coroner in the conduct of the inquests. Amongst other tasks, this means that the MOD will undertake witness tracing in support of the coroner. This process involves a search by the MOD of its records to identify and trace those individuals who may have knowledge of the incident or death being investigated. When potential witnesses can be identified and traced, they will normally be written to by a member of the Defence Inquest Unit (DIU), a specialist team established to manage the MOD’s engagement with coroners. The letter will explain that they are being written to as potential witnesses in relation to a particular incident or death in Northern Ireland, will invite the recipient to contact the DIU and, importantly it will offer support. On occasion, the coroner’s staff may choose to make contact with veterans directly. Should they do so, the advice and support offered by the MOD is available to them and it is recommended that they make contact through the Army Personnel Services Group using the contact details provided.

Support to Criminal Investigations

A number of civilian criminal investigations and reviews into troubles related deaths and other potentially criminal matters are being undertaken by the Police Service of Northern Ireland and other appointed Home Office Police Forces. Some of these involve veterans and serving personnel. In some cases veterans and serving personnel will be contacted with a request for them to act as witnesses. In other cases, individuals have been questioned as suspects and in a very small number of cases, this has led to prosecutions being mounted.

In most cases, the investigating Home Office Police Forces have agreed to liaise with the MOD to ensure that the MOD is aware of any individuals being investigated or prosecuted. In such cases, the MOD will establish contact with the affected personnel to coordinate the necessary support. If a veteran or serving individual is contacted by the police in relation to a troubles related criminal investigation, without having been contacted by the MOD, it is recommended that they make contact through the Army Personnel Services Group using the contact details provided.

Iraq and Afghanistan

The vast majority of Army personnel who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan conducted themselves professionally and demonstrated the highest personal standards of discipline and courage. Nevertheless, allegations have been made that the behaviour of a number may have fallen short of those standards, or may amount to criminal conduct. In order to properly investigate these allegations, a number of investigations continue in relation to the UK’s operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. These are conducted under the provisions of the Service Justice System, as opposed to the civilian Criminal Justice System. As such, investigations are undertaken by the Service Police (either the Royal Navy Police, Royal Military Police or the Royal Air Force Police) and any resulting prosecutions would be by Courts Martial. This is applicable to both serving personnel and affected veterans.

Iraq – Service Police Legacy Investigations (SPLI)

Led by a senior Royal Navy Police officer, the SPLI is meeting the government’s legal duty to investigate the remaining allegations made by Iraqi civilians of serious criminal behaviour by UK Armed Forces in Iraq. In February 2017, the Secretary of State for Defence announced that the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) would close and any remaining Iraq legacy investigations would be reintegrated into the service police system. SPLI took over these remaining investigations at the beginning of July 2017.

SPLI takes the welfare of serving personnel and veterans extremely seriously and is aware those who have served in difficult circumstances may require pastoral care, before, during and after talking with investigators, to help them deal with any welfare issues.

Investigators are aware that both serving personnel and veterans can access a network of support and will signpost personnel to organisations and charities that may be able to offer advice and help. If there are any concerns for a veteran’s welfare, SPLI provides contact details for their relevant NHS trust and veterans’ services.

Further information relating to SPLI can be found at www.gov.uk/guidance/service-police-legacy-investigations

Both serving personnel and veterans may be contacted by the SPLI in relation to an investigation. This may be as a witness in order to gain evidence either to prove or disprove an allegation, but may also be as a suspect.

Under current procedures, investigators will normally approach a veteran who they wish to speak to as a witness directly. In the first instance, this will be to ascertain whether the individual has knowledge of the incident under investigation. In doing so, and when contact is made, investigators will explain their role and the purpose of their enquiry. If the incident is known to the individual, investigators will request that the individual agree to be interviewed. In all cases, investigators will carry out a risk assessment before making contact with a potential witness. This will inform the nature of their approach and the conduct of any interview. It will also identify any requirement for supporting, or follow up, welfare provision.

As with serving personnel, a veteran being interviewed as a suspect will have a commanding officer appointed by the Army Personnel Services Group. The Army Personnel Services Group will also coordinate between the investigators and the commanding officer so that contact between commanding officer and veteran can be established and support offered as soon as possible. The commanding officer will provide the coordinating authority for the delivery of a range of support functions from those organisations that can best provide it.

Veterans contacted by the SPLI who are concerned as to their rights, or are in need of support, are recommended to make contact through the Army Personnel Services Group using the contact details provided.

Afghanistan - Operation NORTHMOOR

Operation NORTHMOOR (established in 2014) is the independent Royal Military Police led investigation into allegations relating to UK detention operations in Afghanistan during the period 2005 to 2013.

Both serving personnel and veterans may be contacted by the Operation NORTHMOOR team in relation to an investigation. This may be as a witness in order to gain evidence either to prove or disprove an allegation, but may also be as a suspect.

As with SPLI procedures, Operation NORTHMOOR investigators will normally approach a veteran who they wish to speak to as a witness directly. In the first instance, this will be to ascertain whether the individual has knowledge of the incident under investigation. In doing so, and when contact is made, investigators will explain their role and the purpose of their enquiry. If the incident is known to the individual, investigators will request that the individual agree to be interviewed. In all cases, investigators will carry out a risk assessment before making contact with a potential witness. This will inform the nature of their approach and the conduct of any interview. It will also identify any requirement for supporting, or follow up, welfare provision.

As with serving personnel, a veteran being interviewed as a suspect under Operation NORTHMOOR will have a commanding officer appointed by the Army Personnel Services Group. The Army Personnel Services Group will also coordinate between the investigators and the commanding officer so that contact between commanding officer and veteran can be established and support offered as soon as possible. The commanding officer will provide the coordinating authority for the delivery of a range of support functions from those organisations that can best provide it.

The Operation NORTHMOOR investigators take their duty of care of both serving personnel and veterans extremely seriously. Affected personnel who have served in very difficult and challenging circumstances may require pastoral care before, during and after talking to investigators. If an investigator has concerns that a veteran requires support they will provide contact details for the relevant NHS Trust and veterans’ services.

Veterans contacted by Operation NORTHMOOR investigators who are concerned as to their rights, or are in need of support, are recommended to make contact through the Army Personnel Services Group using the contact details provided.

Iraq Fatality Investigations

The high court ruled in 2013 that the investigations by the IHAT into fatalities in Iraq arising from the UK’s operations were not sufficient to comply with the UK’s investigative obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Specifically, it ruled that the criminal investigations: (1) did not involve the victims or their families to a sufficient extent to safeguard their legitimate interests; and (2) lacked public accountability. The high court ordered the Secretary of State to establish a further process of “inquisitorial inquiries”, to be modelled on coroner’s inquests and intended to be more proportionate than public inquiries, into alleged violations of Article 2 ECHR (right to life) and some alleged Article 3 ECHR (prohibition of torture, inhuman, or degrading treatment).

As a consequence of the high court’s ruling, the Secretary of State for Defence has required that on completion of investigations by IHAT / SPLI and of any resulting prosecutions, relevant cases would be referred to the Iraq Fatality Investigations for consideration. The Iraq Fatality Investigations are a form of inquest. They are intended to ascertain how an individual died and whether there are lessons that can and should be learned. They are not concerned with blame and, at the start of each case, an undertaking is given that witnesses will not be prosecuted on the basis of any self-incriminating evidence they may make.

Further information regarding the Iraq Fatality Investigations can be found at www.iraq-judicial-investigations.org.

Veterans contacted by the Iraq Fatalities Investigations team who are concerned as to their rights, or are in need of support, are recommended to make contact through the Army Personnel Services Group using the contact details provided.

Support Available

Legal support is provided to all serving personnel and veterans being investigated or prosecuted for allegations relating to legacy operations in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan. Due to the different legal processes, the way in which this legal support is provided differs between the cases relating to Northern Ireland and those from Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • Northern Ireland. Legal advice and support for individuals affected by the Northern Ireland legacy cases is provided by the MOD. In relation to the inquests, and while there is no provision for individual representation for those summoned to appear as witnesses, the MOD has full legal representation and advice is offered to individuals at no cost by the MOD’s legal team. For those under investigation or being prosecuted as part of a troubles criminal case, full legal costs will be met by the MOD.

  • Iraq / Afghanistan. Legal funding is provided through the Armed Forces Criminal Legal Aid Authority (AFCLAA) for service personnel and veterans interviewed and investigated or prosecuted under the Service Justice System for allegations arising from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan under the IHAT / SPLI or Op NORTHMOOR investigations. To apply for legal support through AFCLAA, individuals are to contact the AFCLAA. AFCLAA staff are experienced and highly tuned to the particular needs of all personnel being investigated in relation to incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan. Legal support is also available to those individuals undergoing the IFI process as witnesses who were involved in an incident. Veterans can approach AFCLAA directly themselves, ask their solicitors to make the approach, or require their appointed commanding officer to do so on their behalf. The authority for the provision of legal support for allegations arising from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan under the IHAT / SPLI or Op NORTHMOOR investigations is provided in Defence Instructional Note 2017DIN01-042 – Support Available for Staff Facing Legal Proceedings and is available on the Defence Intranet (MOD personnel only).

Those individuals without access to the Defence Intranet are recommended to make contact through the Army Personnel Services Group using the contact details provided for further information relating to the content of the Defence Instructional Note.

The application form for Legal Aid under AFCLAA is available at MOD Form 2263 (Jan 17) – Application for armed forces criminal legal aid: Iraq (Op Telic) or Afghanistan (Op Herrick) cases only (DOT, 109KB)

Further information relating to AFCLAA can be found at www.gov.uk/guidance/armed-forces-criminal-legal-aid-authority-afclaa.

Examples have arisen where solicitors engaged in Scotland and Northern Ireland have not been appropriately qualified in the necessary elements of the law of England and Wales required by the Service Justice System. Therefore, to provide the necessary representation, solicitors based in Scotland and Northern Ireland must be familiar with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) and be suitably qualified to conduct a police station interview. The Army Personnel Services Group can assist with the provision of a list of qualified legal representatives in Scotland and Northern Ireland should a veteran’s solicitor not be suitably qualified. Any queries concerning the funding of legal aid for Scottish or Northern Ireland based solicitors should be directed to AFCLAA who can advise accordingly.

An individual volunteering to be interviewed as a witness as part of a criminal investigation will not normally require legal support. Veterans who believe legal support might be warranted should contact the Army Personnel Services Group using the contact details provided.

Veterans concerned over the provision of legal advice in relation to a legal process relating to the legacy operations in Northern Ireland, Iraq or Afghanistan are recommended to make contact through the Army Personnel Services Group using the contact details provided.

Welfare Support

Involvement in any of the legal processes arising from legacy operations can lead to considerable stress, worry and concern. These may arise from having to re-live memories of operational incidents and deployments. They may also arise from uncertainty and the legal processes themselves and any potential consequences they may have. The Army recognises the need for welfare support for serving and retired personnel affected by any of these legal processes.

For serving personnel, the provision of primary welfare support within the unit is the responsibility of the commanding officer. The commanding officer exercises this responsibility through the unit chain of command and a trained unit welfare officer. If necessary the commanding officer, unit welfare officer or regimental operations support officer (for members of the army reserve) can access specialist, second line welfare support, usually provided through the Army Welfare Service.

Duty of care support to veterans who are investigated as potential suspects or referred for trial in either of the SPLI or Op NORTHMOOR Service Justice System investigations is coordinated through the appointment of a bespoke commanding officer who will ensure that veterans under their care are offered the full range of support available at their disposal. Where a commanding officer is appointed for a veteran, they play a vital role in coordinating and signposting support. Commanding officers are not expected to deliver this support from their own front line staff; rather they will provide the veteran with links into the military or other third sector organisations. Where a commanding officer is acting on behalf of a veteran, they will ensure that they have the individuals consent before passing their details to other organisations.

Commanding officers are not appointed for veterans acting as witnesses, but they may become aware through regimental associations or other sources, of a veteran who requires further support having provided evidence. Where appropriate, commanding officers will assist by signposting the support available from the veterans welfare service, regimental headquarters and associations or service charities.

Veterans involved in operational legacy matters arising from Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan are encouraged to engage with their respective regimental associations at the earliest opportunity to identify what support and advice is available for them throughout the operational legacy inquest or investigation process. Those veterans who served in Northern Ireland and are approached to support a coroner’s inquest are reminded that, due to Data Protection Act restrictions, personal details gathered in support of that inquest cannot be shared with a third party (including Regimental Associations) without the subject’s consent.

Welfare Support - Veterans Welfare Service (VWS)

The VWS are responsible for the provision of welfare support to veterans throughout their life via a national network of welfare managers across the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The VWS can help facilitate any necessary assistance and have experience of supporting individuals through court cases, public inquiries and coroner’s Inquests. VWS caseworkers offer one to one confidential professional help and guidance by telephone, or if needed, during a home visit. The VWS will also allocate a Welfare Manager who will advise the individual and the chain of command in the most appropriate manner.

To find the nearest veterans welfare centre veterans are encouraged to call the UK Helpline on 0808 191 4218

Welfare Support - Service Charities

  • The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA). The military has strong links with SSAFA who are already contracted to provide welfare support to the RAF and personnel in some overseas locations. SSAFA have agreed to provide specific welfare support and assistance for those serving personnel and veterans involved in operational legacy investigations from Iraq and Afghanistan who may wish to seek support from outside of Defence. SSAFA can provide independent, confidential support through their welfare officers as well as sign posting to existing organisations such the citizens advice bureau and victim support.

More information including details of the support available from SSAFA can be found at www.ssafa.org.uk/.

SSAFA Helpline 0800 731 4880

  • Combat Stress. Combat Stress is the UK’s leading veterans’ mental health charity, dealing with a range of mental health conditions including PTSD, depression and anxiety. The Combat Stress helpline provides support to those experiencing stress or anxiety as a result of the operational legacy investigations. The helpline is shared with the Royal British Legion who can also provide a triage service for advice on financial, welfare and legal considerations, or refer to other providers for wider welfare needs.

More information including details of the support available from Combat Stress can be found at www.combatstress.org.uk

Combat Stress Helpline 0800 138 1619

Veterans concerned about the provision of welfare support and questions related to the role of a bespoke commanding officer are recommended to make contact through the Army Personnel Services Group using the contact details provided.

Other Support

Veterans concerned over the provision of other support, such as security advice, in relation to a legal process relating to the legacy operations in Northern Ireland, Iraq or Afghanistan are recommended to make contact through the Army Personnel Services Group using the contact details provided.

Published 8 February 2018
Last updated 23 October 2018 + show all updates
  1. Updated email address.
  2. Amendment to contact details
  3. Further information included under SPLI
  4. First published.