No Supreme Court for Relatives of Bloody Sunday victims
Relatives of Bloody Sunday victims seeking the prosecution of three more former British soldiers have been denied permission to take their legal battle to the Supreme Court.
Senior judges in Belfast refused leave to appeal a decision that the Army veterans should not go on trial in connection with six of the killings in Derry 50 years ago,
They also rejected a similar attempt by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) to challenge a ruling which still leaves another ex-serviceman, Soldier F, potentially facing two murder charges.
Lady Chief Justice Dame Siobhan Keegan identified no points of law of general public importance requiring consideration by the Supreme Court.
She said: “The court fully understands the significance of this issue to the bereaved families but reiterates that the court was concerned only with the test for prosecution applied by the PPS.”
Thirteen people were killed when members of the Parachute Regiment opened fire on civil rights demonstrators in Derry on January 30, 1972. Another of those wounded died later.
In 2010 the Saville Inquiry into events on Bloody Sunday established the innocence of all of those who died.
Victims’ families brought legal challenges against decisions which meant five of the former paratroopers would not face trial for some of the killings.
In July last year the PPS announced it was discontinuing charges against Soldier F for the murders of William McKinney, 26, and James Wray, 22, plus at least five counts of attempted murder.
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.
The PPS was also challenged for not charging ex-members of the regiment with the murders of Mr McKinney, Jackie Duddy, 17, Michael Kelly, 17, John Young, 17, Michael McDaid, 20, and 41-year-old father-of-six Bernard McGuigan.
At the time of the shootings the Royal Military Police (RMP) took statements from soldiers who opened fire, with further accounts prepared for the original tribunal chaired by Lord Widgery in 1972.
The case centred on a dispute about whether those statements would be ruled inadmissible in any criminal trial.
According to the families, the prosecuting authority’s assessment of the evidence was legally and fundamentally flawed.
In March this year High Court judges quashed the decision to drop the murder charges against Soldier F and directed the PPS to reconsider its determination.
But they dismissed separate challenges to the PPS deciding against prosecuting other retired servicemen in connection with six of the deaths, finding that a senior prosecutor had applied the correct legal test in those cases.
With three of those former soldiers understood to still be alive, victims’ families and the PPS both sought permission to have the decisions judicially scrutinised by the UK’s highest court.
However, Dame Siobhan stressed that the cases were decided on the facts, specific circumstances and the test for prosecution.
Refusing the applications, she said: “The public interest in the incidents giving rise to the litigation does not render the legal issues involved points of law of general public importance or such points which ought to be considered by the Supreme Court.”
Following the ruling Mr McKinney’s brother, Mickey McKinney, called on prosecutors to immediately recommence committal proceedings against Soldier F.
He said: “The PPS has taken no steps in the five and a months since the Court delivered judgment in March quashing as irrational the PPS decision to halt the criminal proceedings.
“We deserve to see desire and determination on the part of the PPS in securing Soldier F’s return for trial to the Crown Court.”
The brother of Michael Kelly expressed disappointment that Soldier F will not also face charges over his killing.
John Kelly said: “Michael was a child when he was murdered and the bullet that was found in his body was forensically matched to Soldier F’s rifle.
“Our disappointment is tempered, however, in the knowledge that the families of Jim Wray and Willie McKinney and those who were shot and wounded in Glenfada Park may still receive justice and their victory will be a victory for all of us.”
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