A relative of two of the victims of Bloody Sunday has described as an “insult” that the British Ministry of Defence is to foot the legal bill for soldiers arrested in connection with the PSNI investigation into the events of January 30, 1972.
The news emerged after an emergency question was lodged in the House of Commons over last week’s arrest of a former member of the Parachute Regiment. ‘Lance Corporal J’ was arrested on November 10 and it is understood he was questioned in relation to the killing of William Nash, John Young and Michael McDaid as well as the wounding of Alexander Nash. The ex-soldier was detained in County Antrim and questioned at a Belfast police station before being released on bail pending further police police inquiries.
This prompted seven other soldiers to seek a judicial review in London. It is understood these soldiers are soldiers B, N, O, Q, R, U and V. These were the anonymous names applied to the ex-soldiers during the 12 year Saville Inquiry.
Lawyers for the soldiers contended that the motivation behind the arrest of ‘Lance Corporal J’ was “politically motivated” and also followed on from the realisation that if they are charged their anonymity could be put aside. It is also possible that if charged and subsequently convicted that they may not quality for early release under the Good Friday Agreement as it falls outside the timeframe agreed for non-qualification agreed in the 1998 accord.
The seven soldiers also lodged objections to not being given at least 24 hours notice of arrest, whereby they could arrange to present themselves to local police stations for questioning. They have also objected to being transferred to Northern Ireland for police questioning.
The judicial review will take place at a Divisional Court in London, next Thursday, November 26. Mr Justice Ouseley ordered that families of those killed on Bloody Sunday are not persons “directly affected” by the application as the case concerns the lawfulness of the anticipated arrests, chiefly because the soldiers are willing to be interviewed in England, and because of risks faced in Northern Ireland.
Independent MP for North Down, Lady Sylvia Hermon, asked in the House of Commons if the Ministry of Defence will pay for his and other soldiers’ legal costs.
She said: “That’s the legal advice and legal representation - top legal representation - of any former soldiers who served in Northern Ireland and who are charged in connection with any inquiry, Bloody Sunday or indeed inquests such as those announced for Ballymurphy.”
Confirming that legal fees will be paid, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office, Ben Wallace, said that the Ministry of Defence recognises it has a duty of care to all current and former members of the armed forces.
He said: “As an essential part of that, we will pay for independent legal advice, so that they are able to defend themselves when they face legal proceedings on matters related to their former service.”
Reacting to the news that the ex-Paratrooper’s will have their legal fees paid by the Ministry of Defence, Kate Nash whose brother was shot dead and father wounded, told the ‘Journal’: “Again the British Government have insulted the family’s and victims of Bloody Sunday.
“They are paying legal expenses for former soldiers they say they owe a duty of care to. Are they serious? What about the innocent victims who’s lives ended that day? What about the innocent people they wounded? What about the hundreds they arrested and brutalised? What about the people who still suffer because of their memories of that day.
“They are paying for these cowards because if they don’t they might tell the real story-that they were ordered in to do exactly what they did, murder Irish people.”