Northern Ireland news

Family of Daniel Hegarty (15) describe decision to prosecute former soldier as 'day of justice'

Daniel Hegarty (15) was shot twice in the head in Derry in 1972
Seamus McKinney

THE family of a teenager shot dead by the British army in 1972 have described a decision to prosecute a former soldier for his murder as a “day of justice”.

Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Herron said yesterday that 'Soldier B' would be charged with the murder of Daniel Hegarty (15) and the wounding of his then 16-year-old cousin, Christopher Hegarty.

The announcement followed a High Court order to review a Public Prosecution Service decision not to bring charges.

From Derry’s Creggan, Daniel was shot twice in the head on July 31 1972 as British troops moved into the area as part of Operation Motorman, a major army offensive to remove “no-go areas” in Derry and Belfast.

The teenager had left his home with his cousins Christopher and Thomas Hegarty to watch tanks move into the area.

He was walking at Creggan Heights when a Royal Scots Regiment soldier opened fire with a general purpose submachine gun.

Daniel was shot twice in the head while Christopher was struck once in the head but survived.

Mr Herron said he had given careful consideration to all of the available evidence in deciding to prosecute Soldier B.

“I have concluded that the evidence which can be presented at court is sufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction and that the evidential test for prosecution is met,” he said.

“As with all cases, I have also carefully considered whether the public interest requires prosecution through the courts. Particular consideration was given to Soldier B’s ill health, regarding which an updated medical report was obtained."

A British government spokeswoman said: "We note today's decision taken by the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service, and we will offer full legal and pastoral support to the individual affected."

The decision comes just weeks after it was announced that another former soldier, known as Soldier F, is to be prosecuted for the murder of Bloody Sunday victims Jim Wray and William McKinney.

Daniel’s family, along with his cousin Christopher, were informed in a meeting with Mr Herron in Derry yesterday.

Following the meeting, his brother-in-law Hugh Brady read a statement on behalf of the family.

He said it had taken 47 years for the state to do the “right thing” and the family would now respect the legal process.

“We wish Soldier B no ill will. We have not, and do not, seek revenge or retribution. We just want the criminal trial process to begin. We have waited long enough for this day of justice for Daniel."

The teenager’s sister, Margaret Brady, also said her family was destroyed by Daniel’s death.

The PPS decision was welcomed last night, with SDLP leader Colum Eastwood saying the Hegarty family "have had to endure interminable delays".

"Now they have the opportunity to finally secure justice for Daniel,” he said.

Sinn Féin assembly member, Raymond McCartney also paid tribute to the Hegarty family for their long “campaign for the truth”.

Of the 26 legacy cases which the PPS has taken “prosecutorial decisions” since 2011, five have involved former soldiers, leading to a decision to prosecute six individuals.

Eight prosecutions were instigated against republicans out of 13 cases, and four against loyalists out of eight cases.

Two cases involving police officers resulted in decisions not to prosecute.

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