Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) announced on Friday that the prosecution of Soldier F, the only British soldier to be charged in connection with the Bloody Sunday killings of 1972, will be discontinued. It was also announced that planned proceedings against a second soldier, Soldier B, will not be commenced.
The announcement comes after the PPS conducted a review of the two cases, commenced in the light of a recent court ruling that evidence relied upon in the prosecution of two other soldiers was inadmissible because of the circumstances in which it was obtained. Due to the similarities between the evidence across the three cases, the review concluded that there was no longer a reasonable prospect of its key evidence being admissible at trial. As such, the test for prosecution was not met and the proceedings were dropped.
The PPS had announced its intention to prosecute Soldier F on March 14, 2019, bringing charges for the murder of two men and attempted murder of five on January 30, 1972, a day now dubbed “Bloody Sunday.” On that day, 13 unarmed civil rights demonstrators were shot dead by British Army paratroopers while marching in protest of the British internment of suspected Irish nationalists. Soldier F was the only soldier to have been charged in connection to the events, with the PPS deciding not to pursue prosecution of 15 other British soldiers due to the insufficiency of evidence.
Separately, a decision to prosecute Soldier B was announced on April 15, 2019, for the murder of 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty on July 31, 1972, and the wounding with intent of his cousin Christopher Hegarty.
Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Herron said of PPS’ decision to drop these prosecutions:
I recognise these decisions bring further pain to victims and bereaved families who have relentlessly sought justice for almost 50 years and have faced many set-backs. It is clear to see how these devastating events in 1972, in which the families involved lost an innocent loved one, caused an enduring pain which continues to weigh heavily.
The PPS has a duty to keep prosecution decisions under review and to take into account any change in circumstances as a case proceeds. The impact of this court ruling on these two cases 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 proceedings against both Soldier B and Soldier F. In these circumstances, the prosecutions cannot proceed.
Ciaran Shiels, a lawyer representing the victims’ families, said that the families will be seeking “an immediate judicial review” of the decision not to prosecute Soldier F.