Bloody Sunday: PPS given four weeks to consider High Court ruling on Soldier F case

The Public Prosecution Service has been given four weeks to “consider and consult” on the quashing of its decision to drop murder charges against a British Army veteran over shootings on Bloody Sunday.

James Wray and William McKinney.
James Wray and William McKinney.

A judge overseeing committal proceedings granted the adjournment sought by the authority after it was directed to rethink a determination that Soldier F should not stand trial for two of the killings in Derry 50 years ago.

District Judge Ted Magill also pledged to be ready for any resumption of the part-heard criminal process at the city’s courthouse.

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He vowed on Friday: “I will make myself available. It’s as simple as that.

“We can get a court in Bishop Street, I believe, as we did before, if we need to. But one step at a time.”

Thirteen people were shot dead when members of the Parachute Regiment opened fire on civil rights demonstrators in Derry on January 30, 1972. Another of those wounded died later.

Soldier F, who cannot be identified, was formally accused of the murders of William McKinney (26) and James Wray (22), plus at least five attempted murders.

But, in July last year, the PPS announced that all charges against the ex-paratrooper were to be discontinued.

The case against him was reviewed following the collapse of separate criminal proceedings against two other military veterans for Troubles-era offences.

Based on an assessment of the admissibility of evidence from the time, it was concluded that the test for prosecution was no longer met.

A legal challenge mounted by Mr McKinney’s family led to the decision being quashed.

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On Wednesday, the High Court ruled that it “crossed the threshold of irrationality”.

Senior judges said the PPS should reconsider the decision taken in a criminal process which has already faced considerable delay.

Following their ruling, the committal proceedings were reviewed on Friday at Laganside Courts in Belfast.

During a brief hearing, counsel for the PPS requested a four-week adjournment.

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“Could I ask until (April 25), the first day back in the new term, for us to consider our position and consult with everyone we need to consult with.”

Granting the application, Mr Magill questioned whether contingency plans were being made for witness availability should proceedings be resumed.

Soldier F’s barrister, Ian Turkington, did not oppose the case being adjourned.

“We can pick up the thread of this conversation, if necessary, on how we approach the next stage of this,” he submitted.

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The judge confirmed: “We will list the case for mention on the 25th, wherever that happens to be.