Northern Ireland

Bloody Sunday Soldier F trial collapses

Soldier F was facing murder charges in connection with the killings of William McKinney and Jim Wray and five attempted murder charges
Soldier F was facing murder charges in connection with the killings of William McKinney and Jim Wray and five attempted murder charges

The prosecution of a former soldier accused of murdering two people on Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972 is to be halted.

Identified only as Soldier F, he was charged with the murder of Jim Wray and William McKinney and the attempted murder of four other people on the same date.

Senior Public Prosecution Service lawyers met this morning with the families of Liam Wray and William McKinney, and with the family of 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty, who was shot dead in Derry six months later.

The prosecution of a former soldier for the murder of the teenager will also not proceed.

The discontinuation of the prosecution of Soldier B comes after the PPS reviewed the cases in light of a recent court ruling that caused the collapse of another Troubles murder trial involving two military veterans.

Mickey McKinney, brother of William McKinney, vowed to fight on, expressing disappointment at the decision of the PPS not to pursue the prosecution against Soldier F.

"This issue is far from concluded. We will fight on," he said.

Solicitor Ciaran Shiels added: "We have this morning informed the Public Prosecution Service of our intention to seek an immediate judicial review of its decision to discontinue the prosecution of Soldier F.

"The reasons underpinning the PPS decision relate to the admissibility of statements made to the Royal Military Police in 1972 by a number of soldiers who were witnesses to events in Glenfada Park.

"The admissibility of RMP statements in relation to the events of Bloody Sunday is a matter already under active judicial consideration by the High Court following proceedings which we lodged last December.

"The High Court will hear detailed legal argument over five days in September. In those circumstances, the decision by the PPS to halt this prosecution is clearly premature in the absence of a High Court ruling on the issue."

Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Herron said he recognised the decisions "bring further pain to victims and bereaved families who have relentlessly sought justice for almost 50 years".

"The PPS has a duty to keep prosecution decisions under review and to take into account any change in circumstances as a case proceeds," he said.

"The impact of this court ruling on these two cases was considered extremely carefully by my office with the assistance of advice from Senior Counsel.

"That led to the conclusion that a reasonable prospect of conviction no longer existed in proceedings against both Soldier B and Soldier F. In these circumstances, the prosecutions cannot proceed."

He added: "Legacy cases come with many challenges, particularly when they involve events which happened almost five decades ago and were not properly investigated at the time.

"It is particularly relevant in these two cases that contemporaneous accounts were obtained in circumstances that involved the denial of legal safeguards.

"The most formidable challenges and bringing modern-day prosecutions in relation to legacy matters often come from issues that can be traced back to the original investigation."

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said it was a "bad day for justice".

"We will continue to stand by the Bloody Sunday and Hegarty families," she tweeted.

Solicitor Des Doherty, for the family of Daniel Hegarty, urged police to seek a fresh statement from Soldier B, if the 1972 statements can no longer be relied upon in evidence.

He urged Soldier B to voluntarily go to police to be interviewed under caution, and called for him to be arrested if he does not.

"Unless the PPS through their direction to police now invite Soldier B to voluntarily attend with the police to be interviewed in relation to the murder of Daniel and the attempted murder of Christopher, then Soldier B should be arrested because there is still time to cure the problem," he said.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood described today's announcement as "bitterly disappointing".

The Foyle MP said the families of Daniel Hegarty, James Wray and William McKinney have been "badly let down on too many occasions".

"This is devastating news today. Devastating for the Bloody Sunday families and the family of Daniel Hegarty who have placed their faith in process after process only to be let down badly as they seek justice and accountability for the murder of their loved ones," he said.

"The Bloody Sunday families and Daniel Hegarty's family have been through worse days than this and they have marched on with dignity, decency and pride.

"The people of Derry have stood with them on every step of their long march toward justice, we're with them today and we'll be with them until the end.

"The SDLP will continue to stand with them in the next phase of this campaign. This is not over."