Prosecutors face ‘serious questions’ over soldiers’ prosecution, say unionists

Unionist representatives and military veterans have questioned why the PPS in Northern Ireland pursued the prosecution of two former soldiers with evidence that “wouldn’t stand up in court”.

Saturday, 3rd July 2021, 8:45 am
Updated Saturday, 3rd July 2021, 8:58 am
DUP MP Sammy Wilson
DUP MP Sammy Wilson

It was announced on Friday that Soldier F and Soldier B – who had both been charged with murder in connection with deaths in Londonderry in 1972 – will have the charges withdrawn, as there is “no longer a reasonable prospect” of securing convictions the PPS said.

The case against the two ex-Paras hinged on evidence of a similar nature to that which was ruled inadmissible in the trial of Soldier A and Soldier C for the murder of Official IRA leader Joe McCann in Belfast the same year.

The Soldier F case relates to the murder of James Wray and William McKinney on Bloody Sunday, while Soldier B had been charged with the murder of 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty.

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Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Herron said: “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 setbacks.

“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.”

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said the announcement in Londonderry “raises significant questions of the justice system”.

He said: “Despite 90% of deaths during the Troubles being at the hands of terrorists, the focus of nearly all investigations is on the actions of the police and army.

“Not only that but we now know that a number of these cases were being taken forward with evidence that wouldn’t stand up in court.”

TUV leader Jim Allister said: “Those upset by the decision to discontinue prosecutions against two soldiers, surely, have to accept that only admissible evidence is permissible and that the same rule must apply for all – soldier or terrorist.

“Statements made in the absence of a caution and legal advice are... inadmissible. However, a serious question does arise for the PPS: how did these cases ever get this far in the absence of sufficient admissible evidence?”

Mickey McKinney, the brother of William Kinney who was shot dead, allegedly by Soldier F, said the campaign for justice would continue.

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

Justice for NI Veterans and NI Veterans Movement spokesperson Paul Young said the decision “will be a huge relief for the families of Soldier B and F and a sense of relief and joy within our veteran community”.

Mr Young added: “It was obvious to veterans that the cases against them were unsound since the case against Soldier A and C collapsed.

“It is time for an independent investigation of the PPS role in bringing forward case that should never have been anywhere near a court.

“For the families of our veterans that can now get on with their lives in peace we continue to stand with you and those that are following in your wake”.

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Alistair Bushe