Military statements can be used in the prosecution of a British soldier known as ‘Soldier F’ who is accused of two of the killings during the Bloody Sunday massacre, according to a court ruling that has been welcomed in Derry.
During proceedings at the magistrates’ court in Derry, a district judge said he is satisfied the statements from five soldiers can be dealt with in a “fair, just and reliable fashion” at trial.
A lawyer for the victims’ families said it was a significant day and a step towards a trial taking place over the events on Bloody Sunday. A number of family members of victims were in court.
‘Soldier F’, who cannot be identified, is accused of murdering James Wray and William McKinney in 1972 when British soldiers shot dead 13 unarmed civil rights demonstrators on the streets of the city. He is charged with five attempted murders in total.
Ciarán Shiels, lawyer for many of the Bloody Sunday families, said it was “a positive and satisfactory ruling” and “a step closer to the families seeing Soldier F being committed and sent forward for trial.
He added: “We will obviously be pushing as much as we can. We have had an undertaking from the PPS this morning that they will be making their best efforts to advance this case expeditiously when it gets to the Crown Court.
“Mainly because of the age of the witnesses, the age of the defendant, the age of the families and the survivors who are here today. All in all it is a very positive day for the families. Five out of the six soldiers’ evidence is now admitted.”
Mickey McKinney, brother of William McKinney, said each of the witnesses provides “significant evidence” of Soldier F carrying out gun attacks.
“We look forward now with renewed confidence to Soldier F being formally returned to stand trial for murder and attempted murder as expeditiously as possible,” he said.
There will be a further committal hearing on September 14. However, new legislation could soon pass through Westminster designed to halt prosecutions of British war crimes.
Sinn Féin’s Pádraig Delargy said that despite “another positive step” for the Bloody Sunday families in their efforts to get justice, the new legislation is “a cynical attempt to let British forces of the hook”
He warned the British government are “attempting to close the door” on the Bloody Sunday families ever getting truth and justice through the courts.
“They should listen to the voices of victims and families and bin this flawed legislation without any more delay and get on with implementing the legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House almost 10 years ago,” he said.