British soldiers were told they would not face prosecution before a teenager was shot dead during a highly controversial operation by the army in Derry’s Creggan Estate in the early 1970s, a lawyer has told an inquest.
Seamus Bradley (19) died after troops launched Operation Motorman to retake so-called no-go areas in the city in July 1972.
A fresh inquest into his death has been ordered and a preliminary hearing was held today in Belfast.
A family barrister told the hearing a document had been discovered by relatives suggesting the military’s rules of engagement were changed shortly before the shooting.
David Heraghty said the dead man’s brother, Danny, believed minutes from the meeting disclosed the army was expecting significant casualties that night.
Mr Heraghty said: “The army were given an indication that the rules of engagement would be changed and soldiers would not be facing prosecution.”
According to a report by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) of independent detectives, Mr Bradley was shot and killed by a soldier from the Royal Scots Regiment near his Creggan home.
It happened when soldiers went into the nationalist estate as part of an effort to eliminate “no go” areas where they had been prevented from patrolling.
The military intervention followed the IRA’s Bloody Friday bombing of Belfast a short time earlier which put pressure on the British government to improve security.
The two main targets of Operation Motorman on July 31, 1972, were Belfast and Derry.
Mr Heraghty said a document was available at Northern Ireland’s Public Records Office which included minutes of a key meeting before the operation.
“Whatever discussions and decisions were made during the course of that meeting may have fed into what took place, which was an amendment to the yellow card rules,” he said.
The yellow card laid out rules of engagement to be followed by soldiers during action.
Mr Heraghty said the dead man’s family was convinced that that document indicates that the army was expecting significant casualties that night.
Investigations by the Historical Enquiries Team, an independent team of detectives in Northern Ireland investigating the past whose work has effectively finished due to police budget cuts, indicated that the soldier who fired the fatal shot was dead and a colleague with him at the time has dementia.