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PPS upholds decision to not prosecute 15 soldiers in connection with Bloody Sunday

Bloody Sunday cameraman passes away

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has decided that no additional British soldiers will be prosecuted for killings on Bloody Sunday. 

An internal review of the PPS's decisions not to prosecute 15 soldiers reported in connection with the events of Bloody Sunday has resulted in those decisions being upheld.

Thirteen people were killed and 15 wounded when members of the British Army's Parachute Regiment opened fire on civil rights demonstrators in Derry on Sunday, January 30, 1972.

In March 2019 there was disappointment amongst Bloody Sunday families when it was decided that only one soldier would be prosecuted.

At that time the PPS concluded that there was sufficient available evidence to prosecute one former soldier, Soldier F, for the murder of James Wray and William McKinney; and for the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell.

He has since been charged with those offences and of attempting to murder a number of persons unknown.

In respect of the other 18 suspects, including 16 former soldiers and two alleged Official IRA members, it was concluded that the available evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction. 

In these circumstances the evidential Test for Prosecution was not met.

The Bloody Sunday families and their solicitors requested a review of those decisions.

Today, September 29, 2020, the PPS has communicated the outcome to the families of those killed and to those injured victims who requested formal reviews of the decisions taken in March 2019 not to prosecute 15 former members of the military.

The range of potential offences allegedly committed on January 30, 1972, included murder, attempted murder and causing grievous bodily injury with intent.  

All reviews were undertaken by PPS Senior Assistant Director Marianne O’Kane, who was not previously involved in the cases.

The requests received related specifically to the deaths of ten of the victims who died on the day, as well as ten others who were injured.

In line with the review process set out by the PPS Code for Prosecutors, Ms O’Kane applied the Test for Prosecution afresh to the large volume of complex evidence and information considered by the original PPS decision-maker in order to reach new decisions.

Detailed legal submissions received were also considered in the course of the reviews.

She has taken new decisions in respect of each review request and concluded that the Test for Prosecution is not met on evidential grounds to prosecute any of the 15 soldiers in connection with the specific deaths or injuries sustained on Bloody Sunday. 

All parties who requested a review received a detailed explanation of this outcome in writing earlier this morning.

The 15 suspects concerned were also informed.

Marianne O’Kane said: “In March 2019, the PPS engaged extensively with the families of those killed and injured on Bloody Sunday to explain the reasons why the original decision-maker concluded that the available evidence did not meet the Test for Prosecution for all but one suspect reported.

“Given the importance of these decisions to all affected by them and the extensive public interest in the events of Bloody Sunday, the deep disappointment felt by many families at that time was wholly understandable.  This was despite assurances received from the PPS that its decision-making had been conducted in an independent, fair and impartial manner.  It was therefore also understandable that a number of the bereaved families and injured victims subsequently exercised their right to request a review of decisions relating to 15 of those suspects originally reported.

“The reviews process began substantively in November 2019, after receipt of all legal submissions, and involved applying the Test for Prosecution afresh to all available evidence submitted by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) from 2016-17.”

She continued: “I have concluded that the available evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction of any of the 15 soldiers who were the subjects of the reviews. Accordingly, the decisions not to prosecute these 15 individuals all stand.

“I know that today’s outcome will cause further upset to those who have pursued a long and determined journey for justice over almost five decades.  I can only offer reassurance to all of the families and victims of Bloody Sunday, and the wider community, that my decisions were conducted wholly independently and impartially, and in accordance with the Code for Prosecutors.

“Finally, it is important to note that while Soldier F is among the 15 individuals to which these new decisions relate, the prosecution that commenced against him in 2019, which relates to two charges of murder and five charges of attempted murder, continues.”  

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