NI: Single British soldier to be charged in connection with Bloody Sunday
Northern Ireland prosecutors have announced that one former British soldier is to be charged with two murders and four attempted murders on Bloody Sunday in 1972.
Lawyers for the families of those killed and wounded on Bloody Sunday have welcomed the prosecution, but voiced their disappointment that 16 other former soldiers will not be charged.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Stephen Herron, met with victims’ families this morning to “explain the prosecution decisions taken and to help them understand the reasons”.
In a statement, Mr Herron said there is “sufficient available evidence” to prosecute one former soldier, known only as “Soldier F”, for the murder of James Wray and William McKinney, and the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell.
However, he said the available evidence in respect of 18 other suspects - 16 former soldiers and two alleged Official IRA members - is “insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction”.
Mr Herron added: “There has been a level of expectation around the prosecution decisions in light of the findings of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. However, much of the material which was available for consideration by the Inquiry is not admissible in criminal proceedings, due to strict rules of evidence that apply.”
Solicitor Ciaran Shiels of Madden & Finucane Solicitors, representing the families of 11 people killed on Bloody Sunday and most of the wounded, said the prosecution represents “a remarkable achievement by the families and victims of Bloody Sunday”.
He said: “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.”
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has confirmed that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) will cover Soldier F’s legal costs in their entirety.
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.”