The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) in Northern Ireland has upheld a decision not to prosecute 15 ex – soldiers in the Bloody Sunday shooting in London.
During a civil rights march in Derry on January 30, 1972, soldiers of the 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment opened fire on protesters, killing 13 and wounding 15 others.
One soldier – identified only as “Soldier F” – is awaiting trial on charges of murder and attempted murder last year.
Northern IrelandThe Public Prosecution Service said at the time that it did not have enough evidence to convict the other 16 ex-servicemen.
Authorities said the review found that “the test for a prosecution was not based on evidence.”
Lawyers representing the families of those killed in the massacre said the decision was “extremely disappointing” and that they could challenge it in the high court.
It was also revealed that the current prosecution against him will continue, while Soldier F is among those under review.
The review was conducted by Marion O’Kane, senior assistant director of PPS, who has not been involved in previous cases.
She said: “In March 2019, PPS reported extensive contact with the families of those killed and injured on Bloody Sunday, and reported to explain the reasons behind the real decision maker’s conclusion that the available evidence was not subject to scrutiny by anyone other than a suspect.
“The significance of these decisions can be fully understood by all those affected by them, as well as the public interest in the Bloody Sunday events, and the deep frustration felt by many families at the time.
“Despite assurances from PPS that the decision-making process was free, fair and impartial, this did not happen.
“Therefore, it is understandable that many grieving families and injured victims have exercised their right to request a review of the decisions made in relation to the 15 or later reported cases.”
They explained that the review process began in November 2019 after all legal submissions had been received and that from 2016 to 2017 the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) was conducting a fresh trial to prosecute all available evidence.
I concluded that the available evidence was insufficient to give a reasonable expectation to convict any of the 15 soldiers under review.
“Accordingly, all the decisions to prosecute these 15 individuals remain.
“I know today’s outcome will be even more disturbing for those who have been on a long and determined journey for justice for more than five decades.
“To the victims of Bloody Sunday and the wider community, I can only assure you that my decisions were made completely freely and impartially and in accordance with the Code of Prosecutors.
“Finally, while Soldier F is one of 15 people involved in these new decisions, the prosecution against him, which began in 2019, continues with two murder charges and five attempted murder cases.”
Soldier F. is facing trial for the murder of James Wray and William McKinney, as well as the murder of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell.
Of the 18 ex-servicemen who reported to the PPS, 15 were found to have undergone reviews of their behavior.
One died in December 2018 before a decision could be made about his involvement.
Reviews of the decision not to charge the other two were initially requested, but those requests were later withdrawn and the reviews stopped.
Solicitor Ciaran Shiels, of the organization that represents the majority of the victims, said the decision to request a review followed a “rigorous analysis” and concluded that preliminary decision-making was flawless and illegal.
Today’s decision to confirm the original decision of the PPS and not to take any further prosecution, leaving the firm conclusion that members of the Parachute Regiment escaped the massacre, is disappointing to families and wounded.
They now have no alternative but to consider challenging these decisions in the High Court through judicial review proceedings.
Sinn Fin MLA Martina Anderson expressed disappointment at the decision and showed her “strength and determination” to the families of those killed in the massacre.
“Bloody Sunday is another disappointing day for families,” she said.
We share the disappointment given the well-documented actions of the British Army on Bloody Sunday.
“Bloody Sunday was a massacre of innocents. It was acknowledged when British Prime Minister David Cameron said it was unjustifiable and unjustifiable.”
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