The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has today confirmed that a British soldier will NOT be prosecuted in relation to the death of a Derry teenager in 1972.
At approximately 4.15am on July 31, 1972, fifteen-year-old Daniel Hegarty was shot and killed by a member of a British Army patrol on duty in the Creggan area of Derry at the commencement of ‘Operation Motorman’.
His cousin, Christopher Hegarty, aged 16, was also injured by the same soldier, known only as ‘Soldier B’.
Decisions not to prosecute were previously taken in 1973 and, again, in 2008 following a review of the case by the PSNI Historical Enquiries Team. The file was subsequently referred back to the Director of Public Prosecutions by the Coroner following the conclusion of an inquest in December 2011.
Explaining the outcome of the review, Assistant Director of Central Casework Michael Agnew, said: “We have given careful consideration to all of the available evidence and information, including the findings of the jury at the inquest.
“We have received further expert evidence, both from the expert who had been instructed by the Coroner and also a second independent expert. The conclusions of both experts are such that they are not able to state that the ballistics evidence is inconsistent with the account provided by Soldier B of the circumstances in which he fired.
“We have applied the Test for Prosecution afresh in light of the evidence currently available. The standard of proof that the prosecution must reach in a criminal trial is the high one of beyond reasonable doubt. Our assessment remains that there is no reasonable prospect of proving to the criminal standard that Soldier B did not act in self-defence having formed a mistaken but honest belief that he was under imminent attack.
“In these circumstances, there is no reasonable prospect of a conviction and the Test for Prosecution is not met.”
Mr Agnew added: “It is clear that in this tragic case there was no objective justification for the shots fired by Soldier B that morning. Neither Daniel nor his cousins posed any threat to Soldier B or his colleagues. However, in a criminal trial, the court will be required to assess the conduct of Soldier B in the context of
the circumstances as he believed, or may have believed, them to be.”
Mr Agnew confirmed that arrangements had been made to keep the Hegarty family informed of progress in relation to the case and the Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory QC, has met with them to explain the outcome of the review.
He added: “I understand how disappointing this decision will be for the families involved, particularly in light of the findings returned by the Inquest Jury. We have sought to provide them with detailed reasons for our decision and to assure them that the decision was taken only after a most careful consideration of all of the available evidence.”