Fully suspended sentence for former British soldier who shot and killed Aidan McAnespie
The former British soldier who shot and killed an unarmed 23-year-old man on his way to a Gaelic football match has received a fully suspended three-year sentence following his conviction of manslaughter.
Former Grenadier Guardsman David Holden, who shot Aidan McAnespie in the back in 1988, is the first former soldier to be convicted and sentenced for an historical offence since the Good Friday Agreement.
Holden, who was 18 at the time of the shooting and is now 53, had denied the charge but was found guilty last November after the judge found he gave a “deliberately false account” of events.
The McAnespie family and Amnesty International UK held a press conference outside Belfast’s Laganside Courts immediately after the sentence was handed down yesterday afternoon.
The sentencing comes in the same week that the UK government’s controversial Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill returned to the House of Lords for further deliberation. The bill, if enacted, will effectively bring criminal investigations and prosecutions in relation to the Troubles to an end.
The bill has been firmly rejected by victims and victims’ rights groups, Amnesty, Northern Ireland political parties and the Irish government, as well as prompting serious concern from the US Congress, the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights, UN Special Rapporteurs, and the Council of Europe Commissioner on Human Rights.
Grainne Teggart, Amnesty’s deputy director in Northern Ireland, said: “Finally, justice has been served for Aidan and the McAnespie family. Today is testament to the family’s admirable courage and resilience.
“This case shows that accountability before the law is still possible and must continue. It is vital the UK government shelves its Troubles Bill so other families can also get justice.
“Justice delayed does not need to be justice denied, but that’s what many victims will face if the government continues with its gross betrayal by closing down all paths to justice.
“The government’s claim that the bill is about delivering for victims is completely disingenuous. Recent proposed amendments pretend to answer people’s concerns but as the overwhelming opposition demonstrates, no one is buying it. It is not too late to put victims at the centre of legacy processes and vindicate their rights.”
Sean McAnespie, brother of Aidan McAnespie, said: “The suspended sentence is disappointing, but the most important point is that David Holden was found guilty of the unlawful killing of our brother Aidan.
“We are glad we had our day in court. David Holden could have given an honest account of what happened that day but didn’t. The judge was clear he had given a deliberately false version of events.
“Prior to his killing Aidan suffered extensive harassment from the security forces for over 10 years. Not a day passes when we don’t miss Aidan.”