One sol­dier to face trial over Bloody Sun­day

The Guardian - - Front Page - Owen Bow­cott Le­gal af­fairs cor­re­spon­dent

Only one for­mer Bri­tish para­trooper is to be charged in con­nec­tion with the killings of civil rights demon­stra­tors on Bloody Sun­day, prompt­ing dis­may and calls for ac­count­abil­ity from fam­i­lies who lost loved ones 47 years ago.

Pros­e­cu­tors an­nounced the de­ci­sion yes­ter­day af­ter rel­a­tives of the 13 peo­ple who died on one of the dark­est days of the Trou­bles in Jan­uary 1972 marched to­gether through the Derry streets where the vic­tims fell.

Af­ter ex­am­in­ing ev­i­dence in 19 cases, the di­rec­tor of pub­lic prose­cu­tions for North­ern Ire­land, Stephen Her­ron, said: “It has been con­cluded that there is suf­fi­cient avail­able ev­i­dence to pros­e­cute one for­mer sol­dier, Sol­dier F, for the mur­der of James Wray and Wil­liam McKin­ney, and for the at­tempted mur­ders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Ma­hon and Pa­trick O’Don­nell.

In re­spect of the other 18 sus­pects, in­clud­ing 16 for­mer sol­diers and two al­leged Of­fi­cial IRA mem­bers, it has been con­cluded that the avail­able ev­i­dence is in­suf­fi­cient to pro­vide a rea­son­able prospect of con­vic­tion.”

De­tails of the charges were re­vealed to the fam­i­lies at a ho­tel, be­fore a for­mal an­nounce­ment by North­ern Ire­land’s Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice (PPS) in Derry’s Guild­hall. The fam­i­lies said they were “dev­as­tated” and that the de­ci­sion was a de­nial of jus­tice.

The for­mer ser­vice­man will only be iden­ti­fied by the let­ter used in the 12-year Sav­ille in­quiry into Bloody Sun­day. The in­quiry found the killings were un­jus­ti­fied, none of the dead were car­ry­ing a gun, no warn­ings were given, no sol­diers were un­der threat and the troops were the first to open fire. The image of a priest wav­ing a blood-stained hand­ker­chief as he tried to help a vic­tim to safety on 30 Jan­uary 1972 was broad­cast around the world.

As well as the 13 who died on the day, 15 oth­ers were shot. One died months later from an in­op­er­a­ble tu­mour; many con­sider him the 14th fa­tal­ity.

The PPS said pros­e­cu­tors would now con­sider charges against oth­ers in re­la­tion to al­le­ga­tions of per­jury.

Her­ron added: “I am mind­ful that it has been a long road for the fam­i­lies to reach this point and to­day will be an­other ex­tremely dif­fi­cult day for them. There has been a level of ex­pec­ta­tion around the pros­e­cu­tion de­ci­sions in the light of the find­ings of the Bloody Sun­day in­quiry.

“How­ever, much of the ma­te­rial which was avail­able for con­sid­er­a­tion by the in­quiry is not ad­mis­si­ble in crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings due to strict rules of ev­i­dence that ap­ply. We recog­nise the deep dis­ap­point­ment felt by many of those we met with to­day. As pros­e­cu­tors, we are re­quired to be wholly ob­jec­tive in our ap­proach.”

A PPS state­ment said: “In some cases the only ev­i­dence of what in­di­vid­ual sol­diers did was con­tained within their own ac­counts [to the in­quiry], which are in­ad­mis­si­ble against them.”

Sol­dier F is to be pros­e­cuted for two mur­ders and four at­tempted mur­ders. The de­fence sec­re­tary, Gavin Wil­liamson, said the gov­ern­ment would pay for his de­fence: “We are in­debted to those sol­diers who served with courage and dis­tinc­tion to bring peace to North­ern Ire­land. The wel­fare of our for­mer ser­vice per­son­nel is of the ut­most im­por­tance and we will of­fer full le­gal and pas­toral sup­port to the in­di­vid­ual af­fected by to­day’s de­ci­sion. This in­cludes fund­ing all his le­gal costs and pro­vid­ing wel­fare sup­port.

“The Min­istry of De­fence is work­ing across gov­ern­ment to drive through a new pack­age of safe­guards to en­sure our armed forces are not un­fairly treated. And the gov­ern­ment will ur­gently re­form the sys­tem for deal­ing with legacy is­sues. Our serv­ing and for­mer per­son­nel can­not live in con­stant fear of pros­e­cu­tion.”

A state­ment on be­half of all of the fam­i­lies was read out in the Guild­hall by four peo­ple af­fected.

John Kelly, whose brother died, said: “There’s a ter­ri­ble dis­ap­point­ment at the out­come … We have trav­elled a long jour­ney since our broth­ers were bru­tally slaugh­tered on our streets … The full cost of Bloody Sun­day can­not be mea­sured just in those who died that day.” The shoot­ings deep­ened the con­flict, he said.

Alana Burke, who was in­jured on Bloody Sun­day, said the three aims of the rel­a­tives’ cam­paign had been to over­turn the “white­wash” of the ini­tial in­quiry led by Lord Widgery, have the vic­tims’ in­no­cence recog­nised and pur­sue prose­cu­tions of sol­diers re­spon­si­ble for the killings.

Michael McKin­ney, who lost a brother, con­tin­ued: “If these crimes had been in­ves­ti­gated prop­erly and ev­i­dence gath­ered then the out­come to­day would have been dif­fer­ent … There can be no statute of lim­i­ta­tions used to deny jus­tice, no new laws to pro­tect state killers.”

Geral­dine Do­herty, whose un­cle died, said: “To­day’s de­ci­sion is 47 years over­due … Killers should not be given anonymity.” She called for those in charge of the army op­er­a­tion to also face pros­e­cu­tion, say­ing: “If the se­nior of­fi­cer in charge of the po­lice op­er­a­tion at Hills­bor­ough [can face charges] then so too can those who were in charge on Bloody Sun­day. There can’t be one law for the mil­i­tary and po­lit­i­cal elite and an­other law for the oth­ers.”

Ciaran Shields, a so­lic­i­tor with the Belfast law firm Mad­den and Fin­u­cane, which rep­re­sents most of the fam­i­lies, said civil cases against the gov­ern­ment se­cur­ing com­pen­sa­tion for most of the rel­a­tives had al­ready suc­ceeded. The last ones are ex­pected to be agreed by this sum­mer. “When Sol­dier F ul­ti­mately faces charges [in court] we would ex­pect that his anonymity is struck off,” Shields added.

The law firm will now ex­am­ine the PPS’s state­ment and seek a re­view of its de­ci­sions. “If those chal­lenges don’t find favour we will then chal­lenge the de­ci­sions in the high court in Belfast,” Shields said. No Bri­tish sol­dier con­victed of mur­der in con­nec­tion with the Trou­bles had ever served more than three years in prison, he added.

But Alan Barry, of the Jus­tice for North­ern Ire­land Vet­er­ans group, said that the de­ci­sion to pros­e­cute Sol­dier F was “one sol­dier too many”. “It’s very one-sided,” he said. “No sol­dier should be charged. It hap­pened 47 years ago, a line in the sand needs to be drawn and peo­ple need to move on.”

For the fam­i­lies of Bloody Sun­day’s vic­tims, who have cam­paigned for jus­tice for decades, the an­nounce­ment that only one Para­chute Reg­i­ment sol­dier would be pros­e­cuted rep­re­sented an an­ti­cli­max.

Ex­pec­ta­tions that at least four for­mer sol­diers would face charges had been wide­spread. Rel­a­tives had marched to­gether to Derry’s Guild­hall, bear­ing pho­to­graphs of their loved ones – civil rights demon­stra­tors who were shot dead on 30 Jan­uary 1972.

A ban­ner bear­ing the words “To­wards Jus­tice” was shared as they pro­cessed through the streets where 47 years ago sol­diers opened fire. Along the way, they halted to sing the civil rights an­them We Shall Over­come.

Shortly be­fore 10am, they all filed into the City ho­tel, over­look­ing the river Foyle, where the Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice briefed the fam­i­lies about its de­ci­sion.

“Peo­ple were to­tally dev­as­tated,” said John Kelly, whose brother Michael was shot dead. “But at least six fam­i­lies have some­thing to look for­ward to.”

Sol­dier F has been charged with two mur­ders and four at­tempted mur­ders.

Hav­ing heard the news they walked across to the Guild­hall. Their joint state­ment re­flected con­tra­dic­tory emo­tions. It de­clared: “Jus­tice for one fam­ily is jus­tice for all of us. We stand in full sol­i­dar­ity with those of us whose loved-one’s death or in­jury has not been in­cluded in the an­nounce­ment of prose­cu­tions.

“We have also faced the dis­ap­point­ing news that in some cases there will not be prose­cu­tions, and we are mind­ful of those fam­i­lies who re­ceived that news to­day.”

The state­ment added: “Bloody Sun­day was not just a wan­ton act car­ried out by a trained army against de­fence­less civil rights ac­tivists. It also cre­ated a deep legacy of hurt and in­jus­tice and deep­ened and pro­longed a bloody con­flict unimag­in­able even in those dark win­ter days of 1972.

“The pas­sage of time has made charges dif­fi­cult in this case, and in other cases. But the pas­sage of time should not be used as a form of blan­ket im­mu­nity to block proper in­ves­ti­ga­tions. Ev­ery­one de­serves jus­tice, in­clud­ing those whose loved ones were mur­dered by the Bri­tish state.”

The fam­i­lies dealt with the dis­ap­point­ment with dig­nity. At the end of the news con­fer­ence, there was a minute’s si­lence at the Guild­hall in mem­ory of the dead, fol­lowed by a round of ap­plause.

Af­ter­wards Jean He­garty, whose younger brother Kevin McElhinney was killed, said she was dis­ap­pointed there had not been more charges but was not sur­prised. “There were a few fam­i­lies who were re­ally up­set,” she said. “It de­pended on ex­pec­ta­tion lev­els. It was very mixed emo­tions.

“If there’s a trial of Sol­dier F, I will go along – even if it’s in Lon­don. Maybe it will be a jury trial? We have came a long way but we are still a di­vided com­mu­nity. It would be nigh on im­pos­si­ble to get a jury that ev­ery­one here con­sid­ered fair. If it’s held in Eng­land, I don’t think it would be fair.”

Julieann Camp­bell, whose un­cle Jackie Duddy was killed in 1972, agreed. “Peo­ple feel a bit gut­ted, a bit un­der­whelmed,” she ex­plained. “But the fact that six fam­i­lies came out with good news, that’s a suc­cess.”

Oth­ers at the nearby Mu­seum of Free Derry stressed the im­por­tance of fi­nally re­solv­ing the bit­ter events.

“With­out Bloody Sun­day and the Bal­ly­mur­phy army shoot­ings of 1971 [in which 11 civil­ians died],” said one man, “the war would not have gone on for 40 years.”


▲ Fam­i­lies march through Derry be­fore be­ing told only one ex-para­trooper would face charges over their rel­a­tives’ deaths


▼ John Kelly, whose brother was killed, com­forts Alana Burke, who was in­jured, af­ter the an­nounce­ment


▼ Bishop Ed­ward Daly, wav­ing a blood­ied hand­ker­chief, clears a path for dy­ing teenager Jackie Duddy


▲ A Bri­tish sol­dier ap­pre­hends a pro­tester dur­ing Bloody Sun­day when 13 men were shot dead in Derry


▲ Fam­i­lies of Bloody Sun­day vic­tims gather at Guild­hall in Derry fol­low­ing the PPS de­ci­sion to pros­e­cute a sin­gle Para­chute Reg­i­ment sol­dier


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