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Statements of former paratroopers excluded from murder trial of ex-IRA man

Statements made by two former paratroopers accused of murdering an Official IRA leader in 1972 have been excluded as evidence in their trial.

The court heard that the prosecution accepted that if the evidence was excluded the charges against the defendants must fail.

The prosecution is considering an appeal against the ruling, which will be heard on Tuesday at 2pm.

Joe McCann, 24, was shot dead as he ran away from the police and Army on Joy Street in Belfast in April 1972.

Speaking outside Laganside Court in Belfast afterwards, solicitor for the McCann family Niall Murphy said they had “very strongly held views” about the ruling.

He added: “They are mindful that the matter is live before the court and looking forward to the exhaustion of an appeal.

The court heard that the only evidence implicating the defendants, soldiers A and C, came from two sources.

The first was statements they made to the Royal Military Police in 1972, the second source was statements and answers which they volunteered to the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) of the PSNI in March 2010.

The defence team argued that all of the evidence was inadmissible and should be excluded under Article 74 and 76 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Northern Ireland Order 1989.

Mr Justice O’Hara said the prosecution had accepted that if the evidence was excluded the charges against soldiers A and C must fail.

He said the decision was therefore “fundamental” to the trial proceeding any further.

The prosecution accepted that the 1972 statements were not admissible on a number of grounds, including that the soldiers were ordered to make them, they were not conducted under caution, there was no access to legal representation and the Army policy of not asking soldiers to provide an explanation or rationale for their actions.

However, they argued that those statements became admissible because they were adopted by the defendants at their interviews in March 2010.

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