Northern Ireland news

Court ruling on Joe McCann case led to PPS Derry decision

Solicitor Ciaran Shiels speaks to the media outside the City Hotel in Londonderry, after the prosecution of two former soldiers over three deaths during Northern Ireland's troubled past were halted. Picture byLiam McBurney/PA Wire
Seamus McKinney

THE decision to rule statements taken from soldiers involved in the 1972 killing of Belfast man Joe McCann as inadmissible was always going to impact on the Soldiers F and B cases.

The court ruled that statements given by the soldiers to the Royal Military Police in 1972 and evidence given to the Historical Enquires Team (HET) in 2010 could not be used in the case against the McCann soldiers.

In ruling that the cases against Soldier F (Bloody Sunday) and Soldier B (Daniel Hegarty) would not now go ahead, the Public Prosecution Service said a key piece of evidence against Soldier B was a written statement given to the HET in 2007. In the Soldier F case, statements gathered in 1972 by the Royal Military Police formed a key plank of the prosecution evidence.

In light of the McCann ruling, the courts were always likely to rule the Soldier B and Soldier F evidence as inadmissible.

Director of Public Prosecutions, Stephen Herron said: “The impact of this court ruling on these two cases (F and B) was considered extremely carefully by my office with the assistance of advices from Senior Counsel.

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

While the decision was devastating for the families, lawyers for the Bloody Sunday families and the family of Daniel Hegarty have revealed they are already working on ways of taking the cases forward.

Des Doherty, for the family of Daniel Hegarty, pointed out that as Soldier B has not been formally arrested and has not appeared at any preliminary court hearings, the way was still open for police to gather evidence against him.

Ciaran Shiels of Madden and Finucane - for family of Willie McKinney - pointed out that a judicial review of the McCann decision was already underway.

He said: “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.”

Both cases still have some way to run.

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Northern Ireland news