Brother of Bloody Sunday victim hopes Soldier F ruling ‘step closer to justice’

The High Court in Belfast has quashed a decision by the PPS to discontinue the case against Soldier F, who is accused of two murders.

23 March 2022

The brother of a man shot dead on Bloody Sunday has said he hopes a court ruling to quash a decision not to prosecute Soldier F for murder is a step closer to justice.

The High Court in Belfast has overruled the decision by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) to drop murder charges against the former paratrooper over two deaths in Londonderry in 1972.

Delivering the ruling in Belfast, Lady Chief Justice Dame Siobhan McKeegan said the decision by the PPS not to continue the prosecution “crossed the threshold of irrationality”.

The head of the PPS said the organisation would take time to study the legal ruling.

The PPS announced last year it was halting the prosecution of Soldier F for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney amid concerns the case could collapse in light of a separate court ruling on the admissibility of evidence which caused the collapse of another Troubles murder trial involving two military veterans.

The McKinney family then launched a judicial review to challenge the PPS decision.

Saville Inquiry
William McKinney, who was killed on Bloody Sunday (Bloody Sunday Trust/PA)

William McKinney’s brother Mickey told the PA news agency that he welcomed the court ruling and that the case could now proceed.

He said: “On the Soldier F case, the judge has put it back to the PPS to reconsider their decision. We are pleased at that.

“Hopefully this will now move things on and get the case started.

“I hope this is a step closer to justice. This thing has been dragged out for so many years it is just ridiculous.

“Hopefully things will start moving now and we will get him into court and get justice.”

First Lady Chief Justice in NI sworn into office
Lady Chief Justice Dame Siobhan Keegan (Northern Ireland Courts Service/PA)

Delivering the ruling on Wednesday, the Lady Chief Justice said: “This is a rare occasion where we consider the decision should be quashed and reconsidered.”

She added: “We consider that the decision crosses the threshold of irrationality where it simply does not add up, or in other words there is an error of reasoning which robs the decision of logic.

“It follows that the matter should remain with the PPS to reconsider the decision.

“There has already been considerable delay in the criminal process and so it may be that the swiftest and most effective course is actually for the district judge to be asked to rule on the admissibility issue in the first instance.

“It may be that public confidence in the interests of justice are best served by a definitive judicial determination on this issue by a court properly seized of the merits.

“The PPS will now have to decide on the next steps.”

Bloody Sunday 50th anniversary
A Bloody Sunday mural in Derry (Liam McBurney/PA)

However, judicial reviews taken by a number of Bloody Sunday families to challenge a PPS decision not to take prosecutions against several other veterans were dismissed by the court.

The case centred on arguments about whether statements made by the soldiers in 1972 would be ruled inadmissible in any criminal trial.

The Lady Chief Justice said she considered there was “no error in law” in these decisions by the PPS.

She added: “(The PPS) has formed a permissible view that there is not a reasonable prospect of the evidence being admitted and in the absence of that evidence there is insufficient other evidence for a reasonable prospect of conviction.”

Bloody Sunday was one of the darkest days in Northern Ireland’s history, when British soldiers shot dead 13 civil rights protesters in the Bogside area of Londonderry.

Another man shot by paratroopers on January 30 1972 died four months later. While many consider him the 14th victim of Bloody Sunday, his death was formally attributed to an inoperable brain tumour.

The Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland, Stephen Herron, said: “Today’s Divisional Court ruling in relation to the PPS decision to discontinue proceedings against Soldier F acknowledged the difficult and complex legal issues faced by prosecutors when assessing the admissibility of statements made by soldiers in particular circumstances in 1972.

“The team involved in the Soldier F prosecution will take time to consider the full detail of the written judgment, when available, and its impact on these proceedings.

“We will update the District Judge and the parties directly involved in the Soldier F prosecution on the outcome of this process at the earliest opportunity.”

Mr Herron added: “Today’s ruling also upheld the original PPS decisions taken not to prosecute other soldiers reported in relation to events on Bloody Sunday in January 1972.

“I would like to acknowledge the lasting pain and frustration of the families involved in these judicial review proceedings and their wider campaign for truth and justice.

“It is important that we effectively engage with the families and we are committed to doing so.”

A solicitor representing families of Bloody Sunday victims has said that Soldier F should now be committed for trial.

Solicitor Ciaran Shiels, of Madden and Finucane, who represents a number of the Bloody Sunday families, said: “We warmly welcome the decision of the Divisional Court today to quash the decision of the PPS to discontinue the prosecution against Soldier F for two counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder.”

He added: “The PPS must now review its decision, taking into account this court’s judgment, and properly applying the principles and guidance provided today by it.

“We would call upon the PPS to move immediately to re-institute the proceedings at Derry District Judge’s Court against Soldier F and to secure his committal for trial in the Crown Court.

“The families continue to be vindicated in their long pursuit of justice.

“We will now study this long and complex judgment and consider if there are any further legal remedies available to families in respect of whom there will be no prosecution of any soldier.”

More from Perspective

Get a free copy of our print edition


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed

Your email address will not be published. The views expressed in the comments below are not those of Perspective. We encourage healthy debate, but racist, misogynistic, homophobic and other types of hateful comments will not be published.