The families of victims of killer British soldiers will continue to fight for justice after Crown prosecutors announced they are discontinuing proceedings against the only soldier to face charges for the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre, as well as those soldiers involved in the murder of 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty.
Mickey McKinney (right), whose brother William, was one of 14 killed by British Paratroopers on Bloody Sunday, read out a statement on behalf of the families after a meeting with prosecutors.
“The decision communicated today to the victims of Bloody Sunday represents another damning indictment of the British justice system,” he said.
Mr McKinney said the murders of his brother and Jim Wray, for which the families were told the soldier will now not be prosecuted, “resulted in two women being robbed of their husbands, 12 children being orphaned of their father, and dozens of young men and women deprived of a brother. Six parents also lost a son”.
“Our family, with the support of the other families and wounded shall challenge this decision as far as we can,” he said, adding: “This issue is far from concluded. We will fight on.”
Liam Wray’s brother Jim was also shot by the anonymous ‘Soldier F’ of the British Army’s Parachute Regiment.
He said he believed justice had been “subverted” as a result of the handling of the massacre by the government authorities in 1972.
He said: “It just proves that for innocent people, innocent civilians and their families to get justice, even after 49 years, it was always going to be a difficult thing to achieve, particularly when we had what we saw in 1972 when all the forces of the state lined up together to collude so that we arrived 49 years later, because of that collusion in 1972 that the present PPS cannot pursue justice, and justice has been subverted.”
John Kelly, whose brother Michael, was killed on Bloody Sunday, said: “All I can say is the same as the rest of the families it is a day of devastation.
“The fact that justice has been denied to the people of Derry and the families. Highly disappointed but the one fact is we are never going to give up. We are not finished. We are continuing on... It’s as simple as that,” he said.
Lawyer Ciaran Shiels of Madden & Finucane, said he has informed the prosecutors of their intention to seek an immediate judicial review of the decision to discontinue the prosecution of Soldier F based on the question of admissibility of statements made to the Royal Military Police in 1972.
“The admissibility of RMP statements in relation to the events of Bloody Sunday is a matter already under active judicial consideration by the High Court following proceedings which we lodged last December in respect of the other victims whose shootings were not prosecuted in relation to this matter,” he said.
“The High Court will hear detailed legal argument over five days this September. In these circumstances the decision by the PPS to halt this prosecution is clearly premature in the absence of a High Court ruling on this issue and we have asked them to desist in the circumstances from withdrawing the proceedings until clear judicial direction is given by the High Court in Belfast.”
Prosecutors also informed the family of 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty who was killed after being shot twice in the head by a Paratrooper in July 1972 that it was discontinuing the prosecution of Soldier B for the same ostensible reason, the presumed inadmissibility of evidence.
The lawyer for the Hegarty family, Des Doherty, spoke in layman’s terms as he told the media of his reaction.
“You can get away with the murder of a child if you’re in the British army, because the state will always protect you,” he said.
He did not blame prosecutors or the courts; they were “stuck with an elaborate cover-up and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice that was begun by the British army, the RUC back in 1972 when the RUC allowed the British army to do their own investigations into their own criminal conduct. [It] is quite appalling.”
He said investigators should seek a fresh statement from Soldier B, if the 1972 statements can no longer be relied upon in evidence.
“Unless the PPS through their direction to police now invite Soldier B to voluntarily attend with the police to be interviewed in relation to the murder of Daniel and the attempted murder of Christopher, then Soldier B should be arrested because there is still time to cure the problem,” he said.
Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly said the decision by the Public Prosecution Service not to proceed with prosecutions of soldiers was “outrageous and an insult to the families of those killed.”
Local MP and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said, “the British government are trying to close all of this down, because they’re in dock for this”.
A solidarity rally is to take place rally in Derry tomorrow with the families of Daniel Hegarty, Jim Wray and William McKinney and other victims
The Bloody Sunday Trust will hold the solidarity event with the Bloody Sunday families and family of Daniel Hegarty later today (Saturday) at 3pm in Guildhall Square. Covid restrictions will be in place at the event.