Northern Ireland

Coagh inquest: Ex-SAS man sentenced to six months for refusing to appear at IRA men’s inquest

Three IRA men killed in suspected shoot-to-kill ambush

Three IRA men died during the 1991 Coagh ambush
Three IRA men died during the 1991 Coagh ambush

A former SAS soldier who refused to give evidence at an inquest into the killing of three IRA members has been sentenced to six months in prison for contempt of court.

The ex-squaddie, known as Soldier F, was sentenced at Edinburgh Court of Session earlier this week.

He will remain free until after a reclaiming motion, in effect an appeal, is heard later this month.

A petition was made to the Scottish court by the presiding coroner in the north, Michael Humphreys, who is also hearing the Coagh inquest and is a High Court judge.

Some reporting restrictions were lifted during a court hearing in Edinburgh on Friday.

However, nothing that can identify Soldier F, who was involved in planning the ambush and who fired shots, can be published.

It is rare for serving or former members of the SAS to be imprisoned in connection with Troubles’ related incidents.

(l-r) Tony Doris, Peter Ryan and Lawrence McNally died in an SAS ambush in 1991 
(l-r) Tony Doris, Peter Ryan and Lawrence McNally died in an SAS ambush in 1991 

Soldier F had been called to give evidence at the inquest into the killing of three IRA men in Coagh, Co Tyrone, in June 1991 but refused to attend.

East Tyrone IRA members Pete Ryan, Lawrence McNally and Tony Doris died after an SAS team raked their car with gunfire.

The three IRA men are believed to have been on their way to shoot a UDR soldier before they were shot.

Relatives of the dead believe their loved ones were the victims of a shoot-to-kill operation.

Several former soldiers and RUC members have provided evidence to the inquest, which is in its closing stages.

Last year the coroner ruled that Soldier F should give oral evidence because of his importance in dealing with issues central to the inquest.

Despite providing a witness statement, Soldier F said he would not appear voluntarily to testify and face cross-examination.

He denies any wrongdoing but expressed concern that he could be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions and ultimately face criminal proceedings.

The coroner later requested that a certificate of default be transmitted to the Court of Session in Edinburgh over Soldier F’s refusal to comply with a subpoena.

At a related High Court hearing last year his lawyers argued that it should not be issued due to the risk that he would be prejudiced at any future hearings.

The court was told Soldier F would not attend the inquest under any circumstances after receiving legal advice about the possible ramifications.

Mr Justice Schofield later ruled that no risk of serious prejudice to Soldier F’s right to a fair trial in any future proceedings had been established.

A Coagh inquest review hearing will take place on March 5.