Bloody Sunday families and Colum Eastwood welcome decision not to prosecute over walk to court

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Colum Eastwood has welcomed a decision by the Public Prosecution Service not to prosecute himself and members of the Bloody Sunday families for walking to court last August.

The PPS confirmed on Thursday members of the families and the Foyle MP will not be prosecuted for walking to Bishop Street for a hearing in relation to the prosecution of Soldier F.

Ciarán Shiels, of Madden & Finucane Solicitors, who represents some of the Bloody Sunday families, and represented Mr. Eastwood, said: “This is a victory for common sense. We welcome the PPS decision in this matter, which applies to all those potentially facing criminal prosecution.

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"We also recognise the Directing Officer’s public commitment that she would come to her decision in respect of any potential prosecution as expeditiously as possible.

Foyle MP Colum EastwoodFoyle MP Colum Eastwood
Foyle MP Colum Eastwood

“This was a matter that never should have troubled the PPS, who have genuine and serious criminal cases that require to be progressed through the courts,” he said.

Michael McKinney, one of the brothers of William McKinney, whose murder Soldier F is to stand trial for, said: “I welcome the decision of the PPS. It was the only decision they could have come to.”

He said the PSNI owed the Bloody Sunday families ‘a sincere and public apology’ for forwarding files to the PPS.

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Tony Doherty, Chair of the Bloody Sunday Trust, said: "This is clearly the right decision, after what was equally clearly a wrong decision to launch this misguided prosecution in the first place."

Michael McKinney, one of the brothers of William McKinney, whose murder Soldier F is to stand trial for, said: “I welcome the decision of the PPS. It was the only decision they could have come to.”Michael McKinney, one of the brothers of William McKinney, whose murder Soldier F is to stand trial for, said: “I welcome the decision of the PPS. It was the only decision they could have come to.”
Michael McKinney, one of the brothers of William McKinney, whose murder Soldier F is to stand trial for, said: “I welcome the decision of the PPS. It was the only decision they could have come to.”

Mr. Eastwood said: “The people of Derry have been standing with the Bloody Sunday families for over 50 years and nothing will ever change that.

“The PPS decision today is the right one. Families who walked to court together and were joined by their representatives should not have been put through this ordeal on top of 50 years of injustice. I am glad that common sense has at last prevailed.”

The PPS said its decision was taken on public interest grounds, including that the procession involved a relatively small number of people and was short in duration; was peaceful and caused no public disorder (or any apparent risk of public disorder) and no need for the deployment of any policing resource; caused no harm or damage occurred and resulted in minimal disruption or inconvenience caused to traffic or the general public.

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The public prosecutor said no complaints were made by any members of the local community and there was no other evidence of any negative community impact.

Decisions were taken by applying the Test for Prosecution. The Test is met if, in relation to an identifiable individual, the available evidence is sufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of a conviction (the Evidential Test) and if prosecution is in the public interest (the Public Interest Test).

A PPS spokeswoman said: “It was considered that the conduct of the reported individuals did amount to participation in a public procession and that their procession had not been subject to the legal notification required.

“However, the purpose of having legislative regulation of parades and processions in NI is to control public disorder and damage, to minimise disruption to the life of the community and to enhance community relations. In this particular case, it was clear that the procession investigated did not raise any of those risks and therefore the public interest would not be served by pursuing criminal proceedings.”

It later emerged Co. Down unionist blogger Jamie Bryson reported the procession to the PSNI.

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