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One former British soldier to be charged with two killings on Bloody Sunday in 1972

The Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service announced its decision this morning.

Updated Mar 14th 2019, 2:59 PM

ONE FORMER BRITISH Army soldier is to be charged with murder over the killing of civilians in Derry on 30 January 1972.

The Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service (PPS) announced its decision this morning following a review of cases involving 19 individuals. 

A man, known just as Soldier F, is to be prosecuted for the murder of James Wray and William McKinney and for the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell. 

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Stephen Herron, said there was “sufficient evidence” to charge Soldier F. 

pjimage (3) James Wray's granddaughter holding a poster of him; and in 2000, a photo of Mickey McKinney holding a picture of his brother William

However, he added that the “available evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction” in respect of the other 18 suspects, including 16 former soldiers and two alleged members of the official IRA. 

“In these circumstances the evidential Test for Prosecution is not met,” he said in a statement this morning. 

Bloody Sunday

On 30 January 1972, in what would become known as Bloody Sunday, British soldiers fired into a crowd of unarmed civilians who were taking part in a civil rights march in the bogside in Derry.

In all, 28 people were shot. Thirteen people died while another person succumbed to their injuries a number of months later. The Widgery Tribunal was held immediately afterwards and largely cleared the soldiers and British authorities of blame.

A second investigation, the Saville Inquiry, was set up in 1998; in 2010 the report was published, and found that the killings were both “unjustified” and “unjustifiable”. The Prime Minister at the time David Cameron apologised on behalf of the UK.

The British government has said that it will cover the legal costs of the soldier who faces the serious charges. 

Northern Ireland - The Troubles - Bloody Sunday - Londonderry Joseph Friel in hospital following the shooting. Soldier F faces charges of his attempted murder Source: PA Archive/PA Images

‘Expectation’

The PPS noted that it will now consider allegations of perjury in relation to the 19 individuals. 

The decisions come after a years-long review by a prosecution team led by the Deputy Director of the PPS Michael Agnew, which was to consider a range of offences including murder, attempted murder and wounding. 

Both men met with families of victims this morning, with Herron noting there has been a “high level of expectation” around today’s events, particularly in light of the findings of Saville. 

“However, much of the material which was available for consideration by the Inquiry is not admissible in criminal proceedings, due to strict rules of evidence that apply,” he explained. 

“I wish to clearly state that where a decision has been reached not to prosecute, that this is in no way diminishes any finding by the Bloody Sunday Inquiry that those killed or injured were not posing a threat to any of the soldiers.

“We recognise the deep disappointment felt by many of those we met with today. As prosecutors we are required to be wholly objective in our approach. However, that does not mean that we do not have compassion for all those who are affected by our decisions.

“Our role is to independently assess the available evidence and apply the Test for Prosecution. We are making a summary of the reasons for our decisions available today to provide assurance to the public that our statutory responsibility was undertaken in this case with absolute integrity and impartiality, without fear or favour.”

A statement from the families, issued through Madden & Finucane Solicitors, described today as a “remarkable achievement”.

“Notwithstanding the unprecedented attempted political interference with the independence of the judicial process, the families have not only succeeded in consigning the Widgery report to history, and securing the complete vindication and declaration of innocence of all of the victims of Bloody Sunday through the Saville Inquiry, they have now secured the prosecution of Soldier F for the murder and attempted murder of six innocent people.”

However, they added: “We are disappointed that not all of those responsible are to face trial.

We will give detailed consideration to the reasons provided for decisions not to prosecute the other soldiers, with a view to making further submissions to the Prosecution Service and we shall ultimately challenge in the High Court, by way of judicial review, any prosecutorial decision that does not withstand scrutiny.

Madden & Finucane represents the families of Jackie Duddy, Michael Kelly, Hugh Gilmour, Michael McDaid, John Young, Kevin McElhinney, William McKinney, Gerard McKinney, Gerald Donaghey, Paddy Doherty and Bernard McGuigan who were murdered on Bloody Sunday; together with Damien Donaghy, Alana Burke, Joe Mahon, Joe Friel, Patrick McDaid and Michael Quinn who were wounded, as well as the families of John Johnston, Peggy Deery, Patrick O’Donnell, Patrick Campbell and Daniel McGowan who were wounded but who are now deceased.

‘Vindication’

The Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign described the news as “vindication” for its decades long fight.

The campaign was set up in 1992 with the goal of overturning the Widgery report, gaining formal acknowledgement that the victims were innocent and prosecuting those responsible.

“We would like to remind everyone that no prosecution, or if it comes to it, no conviction, does not mean not guilty. It does not mean that no crime was committed. It does not mean that those soldiers acted ‘in a dignified and appropriate way’,” the campaign said.

It simply means that if these crimes had been investigated properly when they happened, and evidence gathered at the time, then the outcome would have been different.

Speaking in Washington, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “The most important people in this matter are the families of the victims.”

“I know that the Department of Foreign Affairs is in contact with them on behalf of the Government. All of our thoughts are with the families on what must be a very emotional day.”

With reporting by Leona O’Neill

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