Soldier F to be brought to Derry for first appearance over Bloody Sunday murder charges
A FORMER British soldier facing prosecution for the murder of two people on Bloody Sunday is to be brought to Derry for his first court appearance in August.
In an unprecedented move, Soldier F is to be brought to the city to face two murder charges and four attempted murder charges.
The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has confirmed in a letter to relatives of those that he is alleged to have shot, that papers will be served on the accused at some point next month.
He will then be brought before Bishop Street courthouse to face the court sometime in August.
Plans to bring Soldier F to Derry mark a major change in how Bloody Sunday soldiers have been dealt with.
Following court challenges, the Saville Inquiry was forced to re-locate from Derry to London to hear the evidence of former soldiers. Former military personnel were also allowed to give their evidence outside the city in 1972 when they were called before the now discredited Widgery Tribunal.
The Widgery Inquiry sat in Coleraine, citing security issues for the reason it did not hold hearings in Derry.
Director of Public Prosecutions, Stephen Herron revealed on March 14 that Soldier F was to be prosecuted for the murder of William McKinney and Jim Wray as well as the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell who were injured on Bloody Sunday.
A PPS spokeswoman said significant progress has been made in preparing the “large volume of court papers” required before a summons could be issued to Soldier F, adding that they envisaged a first court appearance in August.
While Soldier F will make his first court appearance in Derry, the location of his trial has not yet been decided.
Plans to bring Soldier F to Derry were welcomed yesterday by the family of 26-year-old William McKinney. Michael McKinney said it was important that the PPS now adhered to the timescale set out.
“It has been a long time since evidence was first given to the Inquiry (Saville) to get to this point. The important thing is that Soldier F is to be charged with the murder of our brother, Willie. I would urge the PPS not to deviate from the time scale it has set out,” he said.
Solicitors representing the majority of relatives of those killed and wounded also welcomed the development.
Ciarán Shiels, a partner in Madden & Finucane Solicitors, said the company has been in continuing correspondence with the PPS about the prosecution.
Mr Shiels said that additional material outstanding from the PSNI would be provided to the PPS "very soon".
"Upon consideration of this material, the PPS will consider whether to add this to the Committal Papers that are being currently prepared," he said.
"We have requested a timetable in relation to the prosecutions and we had previously made submissions that Soldier F should face criminal proceedings in Derry as it was in this County Court Division where the crimes we say he committed took place.
"We can now confirm the that the Committal Papers for Soldier F's Preliminary Enquiry will be served on him and his lawyers in next month and further that he will be summonsed to appear in Derry District Judges Court a date to be fixed in August 2019."