BORIS Johnson promised to intervene to prevent a murder trial from going ahead, a former minister has claimed.

Johnny Mercer, who was last week fired as veterans’ minister by text before he could resign, made the claims in an interview with the Daily Mail. 

Mercer, the MP for Plymouth Moor View, also implicated himself in the allegations, saying that he and the Prime Minister had made promises not to allow the murder trials in question to begin. However, Johnson seemingly did not keep his promise.

The former veterans' minister had been pushing for protections against prosecution for soldiers in the Overseas Operations Bill to be extended to those who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

The bill aims to exempt soldiers serving abroad from prosecution if an alleged war crime was more than five years ago. However, it does not cover those who served in Northern Ireland and is not yet law. 

READ MORE: Fired Tory minister lashes out at 'cesspit' of Westminster politics

Mercer revealed that the Government is looking at “powers to either reduce sentences or grant mercy” for veterans of the Troubles. However, he does not think this goes far enough.

Two men, known only as Soldier A and Soldier C, went on trial on Monday for the murder of the official IRA commander Joe McCann in Belfast in 1972.

This, the first in a series of trials which will ultimately see six British forces veterans in the dock, was the reason for Mercer leaving government.

He was apparently frustrated that Soldiers A and C’s murder trial was to go ahead, despite him and the Prime Minister having “made promises” that it would not happen.

The National: Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Mercer (above) said: “I wrote to the Prime Minister at Christmas saying I was really concerned that the first trial was coming down the track and we’d made promises to these guys that it wasn’t happening.”

Mercer went on: “We had a written ministerial statement that landed with the first reading of the Overseas Operations Bill that committed to equal treatment for those in Northern Ireland. That was a big deal. It was the first time the Government had committed to something.

“Then I was asked to stop repeating that ministerial statement. I was asked to stop repeating our manifesto commitment. I was asked to stop repeating what the Prime Minister said at the despatch box.”

Mercer said the promised intervention was put off till "the summer, then autumn, then Christmas" but ultimately never materialised.

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The SNP’s Northern Ireland spokesperson, Richard Thomson MP, said: "No one should be considered above the law, whether or not they wear a service uniform - and the Tories should never have even suggested that that could be the case.

"However, what is becoming clearer with every day that passes, and every fresh revelation, is that Boris Johnson cannot be trusted and leads an utterly discredited, sleaze-ridden government. Scotland can do so much better.”

The National: OPINION Ross Greer MSP

Ross Greer (above), the Scottish Greens external affairs spokesperson, said: "Westminster government interference in these processes is deeply sinister."

He added: "If they really wanted to support veterans they should provide them with adequate housing and mental health support, not excuse those who may have committed murder.”

Symon Hill, the campaigns manager of the Peace Pledge Union (PPU), the UK’s leading pacifist group and distributor of the white poppy, said Mercer had “effectively admitted misusing his power”.

Hill said: "If what Johnny Mercer says is true, then the Prime Minister was offering to close down a murder trial. Both Boris Johnson and Johnny Mercer have urgent questions to answer. Why, in a supposedly democratic country, are government ministers discussing interfering in a judicial process to stop a trial taking place?

"We are not all equal before the law if a trial can be stopped because powerful people don't want it to go ahead. Johnny Mercer has effectively admitted misusing his power as a minister to try to close down a trial.

"Soldier A and Soldier C are entitled to be presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a fair trial. What they are not entitled to is special treatment or behind-the-scenes help from ministers.

"The reality is that UK forces personnel and veterans are almost never prosecuted for war-related crimes.”

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In his interview with the Daily Mail, the former veterans' minister also hit out at the “cesspit” of No10, saying it was filled with people who are “essentially unemployable outside politics”.

Mercer claimed that, during a spike of veteran suicides in January 2020, he had wanted to go on television to talk about the problem but had been told not to by people in Downing Street’s communications department.

He said: “There was help available for [the veterans], but it is very hard to understand where it is and how to access it. I really wanted to go out and talk about what was available, but was repeatedly told it wasn’t part of the agenda.”

Mercer added: “Veterans were committing suicide at a faster rate than usual and the Government was blocking me from speaking to them.”

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Office said: "The Government has been clear that it will bring forward legislation to address the legacy of the troubles which focuses on reconciliation, delivers for victims, and ends the cycle of investigations. We are committed to making progress on this as quickly as possible."

Johnny Mercer, the Ministry of Defence, and several other UK Government departments were approached for comment.