The PSNI says it has not yet decided whether or not it will appeal a High Court decision handed down against them stipulating that former members of the Parachute Regiment to be questioned in relation to their roles on Bloody Sunday cannot be detained and taken to Northern Ireland for interview.
A statement from the PSNI to the ‘Journal’ has said it is ‘studying the decision in detail’.
The ex-soldiers, who cannot be named, applied for a judicial review against the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), who wants them taken back to Northern Ireland for an investigation into whether criminal offences may have been committed by soldiers who used lethal force on Bloody Sunday in 1972.
The High Court in London granted the seven men an order prohibiting the PSNI from arresting them on their undertaking “that they will attend for an interview under caution... to be carried out by the PSNI at a police station in England and Wales, or other acceptable location”.
At the centre of the case was the way the PSNI is conducting its probe into the deaths of 14 civil rights demonstrators in Derry.
Lawyers for the ex-soldiers, who live in England and gave evidence to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry from the Britain, argued there was a real danger that their lives would unnecessarily be put at risk.
Arresting and transporting them “for what can only be described as administrative convenience” would be “unlawful, irrational and disproportionate”, said James Lewis QC at a one-day hearing in November.
He said all the men were willing to be questioned in Britain but intended to make “no comment”.
Lord Thomas, Mr Justice Openshaw and Mrs Justice Carr announced on Thursday that they had “unhesitatingly concluded” that the reasons advanced for the arrest and transfer of the men - referred to as B, N, O, Q, R, U and V - “did not provide reasonable grounds” for the decision.
The lodging of the case by the ex-soldiers was prompted by the arrest last month of the former soldier referred to as ‘Lance Corporal J’. The 66-year-old was arrested in Antrim and questioned in Belfast before being released on police bail. It is understood he was questioned in relation to the killing of William Nash, John Young and Michael McDaid and also in relation to the wounding Alex Nash.
There had been an undertaking given by the PSNI that there would be no further arrests until the conclusion of today’s judicial review.
Two people who had relatives killed and wounded on Bloody Sunday told the ‘Journal’ that they would now urge the PSNI to proceed immediately with re-starting the arrest and questioning of the ex-soldiers.
Mickey McKinney whose brother was shot dead on January 30, 1972 said: “What needs to happen now is that we need to get on with it and get these guys interviewed and get files sent to the Public Prosecution Service. Let’s get this moving.
Kate Nash, who brother William was also killed and whose father Alex was seriously wounded told the ‘Journal’: “I will be emailing the police today and asking them when they will begin the process of arresting these soldiers again.”
The ‘Journal’ this afternoon asked the PSNI a series of questions in relation to the future questioning of the soldiers in the wake of the High Court decision.
Firstly, the paper asked that if there was no intention of appealing the High Court ruling do the PSNI intend to recommence arresting and interviewing the soldiers as soon as possible?
Given that questioning of the soldiers will have to now take place in England, the ‘Journal’ asked the PSNI what procedures will have to be followed in order to facilitate those interviews and also what time frame can be given for any arrests and subsequent interviews?
The paper also asked the PSNI if any further progress had been made with regard to inquiries into the case of ‘Lance Corporal J’ since his release on police bail back in November?
In response Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy, from the PSNI’s Legacy Investigation Branch, said: “We acknowledge today’s judgement on these complex issues and we will study it in detail. The investigation into the events of Bloody Sunday continues and we will factor the findings into our investigative strategy moving forward.”