Soldier who shot dead Daniel Hegarty (15) in 1972 will not be prosecuted

Daniel Hegarty's mother Margaret pictured along with her daughter, also Margaret

The family of Daniel Hegarty may consider civil action against the Ministry of Defence following a decision not to prosecute the soldier who shot dead the 15-year-old in Derry in 1972.

The Public Prosecution Service announced yesterday that having reviewed the evidence, there is "no reasonable prospect of proving to the criminal standard" that Soldier B did not "believe" he was acting in self defence.

This is despite an inquest ruling in 2011 that the teenager, shot on the first day of Operation Motorman, posed no risk.

Daniel Hegarty was shot twice in the head by a soldier close to his home in Creggan area. His 16-year-old cousin Christopher Hegarty was shot in the head by the same soldier but survived.

The soldier, who is now in his late 60s, had been in the army less than a year when the operation to claim back 'no-go areas' from the IRA began in July 1972.

Decisions not to prosecute were previously taken in 1973 and again in 2008 following a review of the case by the PSNI Historical Enquiries Team.

The file was referred back to the PPS by coroner John Leckey in 2011 following a fresh inquest, giving the family hope that prosecutions might still take place.

However, senior prosecutor Michael Agnew said that while neither Daniel nor his cousin posed any threat to Soldier B, the PPS had "received further expert evidence, both from the expert who had been instructed by the coroner and also a second independent expert".

"The conclusions of both experts are such that they are not able to state that the ballistics evidence is inconsistent with the account provided by Soldier B of the circumstances in which he fired.

"We have applied the test for prosecution afresh in light of the evidence currently available. The standard of proof that the prosecution must reach in a criminal trial is the high one of beyond reasonable doubt.

"Our assessment remains that there is no reasonable prospect of proving to the criminal standard that Soldier B did not act in self-defence having formed a mistaken but honest belief that he was under imminent attack.

"I understand how disappointing this decision will be for the families involved, particularly in light of the findings returned by the inquest jury. We have sought to provide them with detailed reasons for our decision and to assure them that the decision was taken only after a most careful consideration of all of the available evidence."

The Hegarty family, who had travelled from Derry to Belfast to meet with the PPS, left without speaking to the media.

With no possibility of prosecutions unless further evidence comes to light, it is understood they may now consider civil action.

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