A brother of one of those shot dead on Bloody Sunday has secured High Court permission to challenge the decision to drop murder charges against a former British soldier accused of taking part in the massacre.
Michael McKinney was granted leave to seek a judicial review of the Crown Prosecution Service’s determination that ‘Soldier F’ should not stand trial.
The soldier is the only British Army soldier to face charges in connection with the killing of 14 innocent civilians in Derry on January 30, 1972.
He has been facing charges of murdering James Wray and William McKinney when he and other troops opened fire on civil rights demonstrators in the city’s Bogside.
The former paratrooper was also accused of the attempted murders of Patrick O’Donnell, Joseph Friel, Joe Mahon and Michael Quinn. He faced a further supporting charge of the attempted murder of a person or persons unknown on the day in Derry.
Last week, the Crown Prosecution Service announced that all charges against ‘Soldier F’ would be discontinued. It announced that he and another soldier in the 1972 murder of 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty would not now stand trial.
Those decisions was allegedly based on a ruling in a separate case on the admissibility of statements, but there had been clear signs that the British government would take steps to prevent former British soldiers from going on trial.
Michael McKinney pointed out that relatives of five Bloody Sunday victims are already seeking to judicially review prosecutors’ failure to charge former soldiers with their murders, including Soldier F.
Mr McKinney said his family was delighted to be granted leave. “The position it adopted was a source of great distress to our family. This represents a victory for us and Jim Wray’s family and those wounded by Soldier F.”
A rally took place in Derry last weekend to show support for the Bloody Sunday families and the family of 1972 shooting victim, 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty.
Tony Doherty, whose father, Patrick Doherty was killed on Bloody Sunday, warned that the decision to discontinue murder cases against former British soldiers meant nationalists and republicans could not get justice in their own country.
Hundreds of people attended the rally at Guildhall Square on Saturday while solidarity rallies were also held in Belfast and Newry.
Mr Doherty said: “If ordinary people like us who suffered the worst of the state violence over the years can’t get basic justice, where do we do from here. Are we at the end of the road from a judicial point of view and what are the implications for that in terms of the political institutions that we’re supposed to give allegiance to?
“People like us in the nationalist republican community have been put in a very difficult position because we can no longer get justice in our own land,” Mr Doherty said.
Sinn Féin assembly member Gerry Kelly has condemned the rulings as an insult to the families of those killed.
“These decisions mean that the British soldiers who gunned down these unarmed Irish civilians will never be held to account,” he said.
Republican Sinn Fein said “there is no such thing as British justice in Ireland”.
“Irish Republicans are trawled before the courts on a regular basis and held on trumped up charges while British murderers are given a license to kill,” they said in a statement.
“While the British remain in Ireland, there will always be more Bloody Sunday’s. As the 50th anniversary nears, we will continue to support these families and all others who are victims of our occupiers.”