PARAS’ MURDER TRIALS COLLAPSE
Two former British Army soldiers accused of murders in Northern Ireland including on Bloody Sunday in 1972, will now not face trial.
The cases involve individuals known as Soldier F and Soldier B.
Soldier F was to be prosecuted over the deaths of James Wray and William McKinney on Bloody Sunday.
The case against Soldier B relates to the death of 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty, who was shot twice in the head in Derry in July 1972.
It also relates to the wounding of his cousin, Christopher.
Thirteen people were shot dead and 15 were wounded when the Parachute Regiment opened fire on civil rights demonstrators on Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in January 1972.
Soldier F was also facing five counts of attempted murder.
A 2011 inquest found Daniel Hegarty posed no risk and was shot without warning as the Army moved in to clear “no-go” areas during Operation Motorman.
Reviews of the cases were prompted by the collapse of the trial in Belfast in May of two other veterans for Troubles-era offences.
The court ruled that statements by Soldiers A and C, accused of murdering IRA man Joe McCann, were inadmissible and the pair were acquitted.
Pre-trial proceedings against Soldier F had already commenced.
Discontinuing the prosecutions will involve a court hearing which Northern Ireland’s PPS is asking to be scheduled in coming days.
The Soldier B case had not yet reached court.
Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service this morning informed relatives of the murdered men that it will not proceed with the case against him as there is no longer a reasonable prospect of securing a conviction.
A lawyer representing the families said they do not accept the decision and will challenge it in the courts.
NI PPS Director Stephen Herron, who took the decision to prosecute the former soldier in March 2019, met relatives of those killed and injured in Derry this morning.
Solicitor Ciarán Shiels said the relatives had been concerned about the conduct of the prosecution case for some time.
“The decision communicated today to the victims of Bloody Sunday represents another damning indictment of the British justice system,” he said in a statement.
Lord Saville, who chaired the public inquiry into Bloody Sunday, said in his report that he was confident he could positively identify soldiers responsible for the killings.
He imposed a ban on naming any of the former members of the Parachute Regiment and instead referred to them by letters.
The report said one soldier, Lance Corporal F, had shot dead three men and possibly two others.
The other soldier, whio is charged with murdering a 15-year-old boy in Derry in July 1972, will also not stand trial, the boy’s family has been told.
Fifteen-year-old Daniel Hegarty was shot twice in the head close to his home in the Creggan area of the city during Operation Motorman in July 1972.
The man, referred to as Soldier B, had been charged with his murder, but the PPS told the boy’s family that there is no longer a reasonable prospect of securing a conviction.
Both decisions are linked to the collapse of the trial of two former paratroopers accused of the murder of Official IRA man Joe McCann, 24, in Belfast in April 1972.
The Public Prosecution Service offered no evidence at their trial following a decision by the trial judge, Mr Justice O’Hara, at Belfast Crown Court to exclude statements given by the ex-soldiers about the shooting because they had been ordered to make them, had not been cautioned, and had no legal representation at the time.
The PPS did not challenge this decision.
In his statement today, solicitor Ciarán Shiels added: “We have this morning informed the Public Prosecution Service of our intention to seek an immediate judicial review of its decision to discontinue the prosecution of Soldier F.
“The reasons underpinning the PPS decision relate to the admissibility of statements made to the Royal Military Police in 1972 by a number of soldiers who were witnesses to events in Glenfada Park.
He added: “The admissibility of RMP statements in relation to the events of Bloody Sunday is a matter already under active consideration by the High Court, which will hear detailed legal argument over five days in September.
“In those circumstances, the decision by the PPS to halt this prosecution is clearly premature in the absence of a High Court ruling on the issue”.