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Judge quashes decision not to proceed with Soldier F Bloody Sunday prosecution

Bloody Sunday families had challenged a number of decisions not to prosecute taken by the PPS.

Image: PA

Updated Mar 23rd 2022, 4:16 PM

A DECISION BY the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) to discontinue a murder prosecution of Soldier F for two deaths on Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972 has been quashed at the High Court in Belfast.

Delivering the ruling, Lady Chief Justice Mrs Siobhan McKeegan said the decision by the PPS not to continue the prosecution “crossed the threshold of irrationality”.

The PPS announced last year it was discontinuing the prosecution of Soldier F for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney amid concerns the case could collapse in light of a separate court ruling on the admissibility of evidence which caused the collapse of another Troubles murder trial involving two military veterans.

The McKinney family then launched a judicial review to challenge the PPS decision.

Delivering the verdict today, the Lady Chief Justice said: “We consider that the decision crosses the threshold of irrationality where it simply does not add up, or in other words there is an error of reasoning which robs the decision of logic.

“It follows that the matter should remain with the PPS to reconsider the decision.

“There has already been considerable delay in the criminal process and so it may be that the swiftest and most effective course is actually for the district judge to be asked to rule on the admissibility issue in the first instance.

“It may be that public confidence in the interests of justice are best served by a definitive judicial determination on this issue by a court properly seized of the merits.

“The PPS will now have to decide on the next steps.”

However, judicial reviews taken by a number of other Bloody Sunday families to challenge the PPS not to take prosecutions against five other veterans were dismissed by the court.

The Lady Chief Justice said she considered there was “no error in law” in these decisions.

A solicitor that represents the families of Bloody Sunday victims reacted to the decision by saying that Soldier F should now be committed for trial.

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“We warmly welcome the decision of the Divisional Court today to quash the decision of the PPS to discontinue the prosecution against Soldier F for two counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder,” Ciaran Shiels of Madden & Finucane said.

“The PPS must now review its decision taking into account this court’s judgment, and properly applying the principals and guidance provided today by it.

“We would call upon the PPS to move immediately to re-institute the proceedings at Derry District Judge’s Court against Soldier F and to secure his committal for trial in the Crown Court.

The families continue to be vindicated in their long pursuit of justice.

Bloody Sunday was one of the darkest days in Northern Ireland’s history, when British soldiers shot dead 13 civil rights protestors in the Bogside area of Derry.

Another man shot by paratroopers on 30 January 1972 died four months later. While many consider him the 14th victim of Bloody Sunday, his death was formally attributed to an inoperable brain tumour.

Additional reporting from Céimin Burke

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