Prosecutions of Soldier B and Soldier F over 1972 killings in Derry to be dropped after PPS review
The Public Prosecution Service announced its intention to discontinue the prosecutions of two former soldiers in connection with separate killings in Derry.
Proceedings against Soldier F, a former member of the military facing trial for two charges of murder and five of attempted murder on Bloody Sunday in January 1972, will be withdrawn.
Separately, proceedings will not be commenced against Soldier B who was to be prosecuted with the murder of 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty in July 1972, and of wounding with intent of his cousin Christopher Hegarty.
The PPS said the decisions not to proceed with both cases were taken after careful consideration of a recent court ruling.
The court ruled earlier this year that evidence relied upon in the prosecution of two former soldiers known as Soldier A and Soldier C was inadmissible because of the circumstances in which it was obtained.
Following this ruling the PPS conducted a review of the available evidence against Soldier B and Soldier F to establish whether it had any implications for the prospect of convictions in these cases.
It was concluded that there was no longer a reasonable prospect of key evidence in proceedings against Soldier F and Soldier B being ruled admissible at their trials and without this evidence the Test for Prosecution was no longer considered met.
Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Herron, along with Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Michael Agnew, hosted private meetings in Derry with families of the deceased and victims directly affected by the two decisions this morning.
Mr Herron said: “I recognise these decisions bring further pain to victims and bereaved families who have relentlessly sought justice for almost 50 years and have faced many set-backs. It is clear to see how these devastating events in 1972, in which the families involved lost an innocent loved one, caused an enduring pain which continues to weigh heavily.
“The PPS has a duty to keep prosecution decisions under review and to take into account any change in circumstances as a case proceeds. The impact of this court ruling on these two cases was considered extremely carefully by my office with the assistance of advices from Senior Counsel. That led to the conclusion that a reasonable prospect of conviction no longer existed in proceedings against both Soldier B and Soldier F. In these circumstances, the prosecutions cannot proceed.
“It is the role of a prosecutor to look at evidence and complex legal matters in an independent and impartial way, as happened in these reviews. This core duty to remain objective in all decision-making does not hinder us from recognising the extreme distress caused by these decisions today. We know that deep upset extends not just to the families and survivors we met with, but also to many in the wider community. In both cases, I would like to emphasise that this outcome does not undermine previous findings that those killed and injured in these tragic incidents were entirely innocent.”
The Director of Public Prosecutions added: “Legacy cases come with many challenges, particularly when they involve events which happened almost five decades ago and were not properly investigated at the time. It is particularly relevant in these two cases that contemporaneous accounts were obtained in circumstances that involved a denial of legal safeguards. The most formidable challenges in bringing modern day prosecutions in relation to legacy matters often come from issues that can be traced back to the original investigation.”