Bloody Sunday decision: one former British soldier will be prosecuted for killings
- Some 14 innocent civil rights demonstrators were killed during protests
- One of the most infamous events of the Troubles
ONE former British soldier will face prosecution for opening fire on Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972.
A total of 14 innocent civil rights demonstrators were killed during protests and a further 15 were injured, on January 30 1972, on one of the most notorious days of the Northern Ireland Troubles
The Public Prosecution Service of Northern Ireland this morning recommended that one former paratrooper – soldier F – is to be charged with two murders and four attempted murders during Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972, Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has announced.
The solider will face prosecution for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney and the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O'Donnell.
Prosecutions against the 16 other former members of the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment in relation to the events of January 30 1972 will not be taken.
The soldiers had potentially faced charges of murder, attempted murder and causing grievous injury with intent. A decision has also been made not to charge two Official IRA suspects present on the day.
The PPS said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute 16 other soldiers and two official IRA men.
Relatives have emerged in a sombre mood from the City Hotel.
As one reporter asked "Is this justice?" one of the relatives replied: "No comment."
They are once again marching together, this time to the city's Guildhall, holding pictures of those killed.
John Kelly, whose 17-year-old brother Michael was killed, said many had received a "terrible disappointment".
He said: "The dead cannot cry out for justice, it is the duty of the living to do so for them.
"We have cried out for them for many years, and now we have succeeded for them. Do not deny us justice any longer."
But he welcomed the positive news for the six families impacted by the decision to prosecute soldier F.
"Their victory is our victory," he said.
Mr Kelly highlighted there were legal means of challenging the decisions not to prosecute.
"The Bloody Sunday families are not finished yet," he said.
Mickey McKinney, whose brother Willie was shot dead, said: "Everyone deserves justice, including those whose loved ones were murdered by the British state."
He said it was "disappointing" for families who had not received news of prosecutions.
But he added: "For us here today it is important to point out that justice for one family is justice for all of us."
He said: "We would like to remind everyone that no prosecution, or whenever 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.
"It simply means that if these crimes had been investigated properly when they happened, and evidence gathered at the time then the outcome would've been different."
The Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland, Stephen Herron, said: “It has been concluded that there is sufficient available evidence to prosecute one former soldier, Soldier F, 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.
“In respect of the other 18 suspects, including 16 former soldiers and two alleged Official IRA members, it has been concluded that the available evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction.”
Mr Herron said that there was a "level of expectation" in light of the recent Bloody Sunday inquiry.
But he said that much of the material would not be admissible in the criminal proceedings. "Therefore many of the statements made by the soldiers cannot be used," he added.
"I would stress that the prosecution's decision in no way undermines the finding of the inquiry that those killed or injured were not posing a threat."
Reflecting on his meeting with the families the Director added: "I am mindful that it has been a long road for the families to reach this point and today will be another extremely difficult day for many of them."
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar responded to today’s news on Bloody Sunday saying: "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."
Solicitor for a number of the Bloody Sunday families, Ciaran Shiels, said: "This is a remarkable achievement by the families and victims of Bloody Sunday.
"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.
"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."
Denis Bradley, a former priest who was present on the day in 1972, said that it was a "bad day for justice".
"I think that some of the families will be disappointed," he said. "Personally I feel a bit annoyed at the words that the PPS used that there wasn't sufficient evidence...that is almost an insult.
UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson confirmed the UK Ministry of Defence would support soldier F and pay the legal costs.
He said: "We are indebted to those soldiers who served with courage and distinction to bring peace to Northern Ireland.
"The welfare of our former service personnel is of the utmost importance and we will offer full legal and pastoral support to the individual affected by today's decision. This includes funding all his legal costs and providing welfare support.
"The Ministry of Defence is working across government to drive through a new package of safeguards to ensure our armed forces are not unfairly treated.
"And the government will urgently reform the system for dealing with legacy issues. Our serving and former personnel cannot live in constant fear of prosecution."
Earlier this morning the families gathered outside The Museum of Free Derry, just yards from where the killings took place 47 years ago, before marching together to a city centre hotel for the Public Prosecution Service decision.
As the march approached the hotel the families began singing We Shall Overcome, an anthem of the civil rights movement.
Those entering the hotel shook hands and hugged relatives before leaving them to learn the news from the prosecution service. One of the crowd shouted: "Bring us back justice."
Sinn Fein's leader in Northern Ireland, Michelle O'Neill, and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood marched with the families this morning.
The families of the victims have been fighting for almost 50 years to bring about justice.
The image of Fr Edward Daly, waving a blood-stained white handerchief as he tried to carry an injured bloody man to safety, went around the world.
Soldiers had been sent into the Bogside nationalist housing estate to deal with riots which followed a Derry march defying a ban on public processions.
A public inquiry conducted by a senior judge shortly after the deaths was branded a whitewash by the dead victims' families and thus began a campaign for a new public inquiry.
A fresh probe was eventually ordered by former prime minister Tony Blair in 1998.
A decade-long investigation by Lord Saville of Newdigate concluded that the troops killed peaceful protesters and seriously criticised the decision to send them into the Bogside estate in vehicles. Following the inquiry's conclusion in 2010, then prime minister David Cameron said the killings were "unjustified and unjustifiable".
An investigation by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) followed the £195 million inquiry and files on 18 soldiers were submitted to prosecutors in 2016 and 2017 for consideration. One former soldier has since died.
Four other soldiers included in the Saville Report died before police had completed their investigation.
The deaths of the innocent demonstrators helped galvanise support for the Provisional IRA early in the Troubles.
Papers before prosecutors included 668 witness statements and numerous photos, video and audio evidence.
More to follow