Thursday, 21 March, 2019

Bloody Sunday families call for investigation into Defence Secretary's comments

Bloody Sunday British paratrooper charged with two murders over massacre | Daily Star One former British soldier to face charges over Bloody Sunday killings
Kenny Thornton | 14 March, 2019, 20:11

A Government spokesperson said: "The welfare of our personnel and veterans is of the utmost importance and we provide legal and pastoral support to any veteran who requires it". Relatives and supporters of the victims of the 1972 Bloody Sunday killings hold images of those who died as they march from the Bogside area of Derry.

The UK Ministry of Defence has said its serving and former personnel can not live in constant fear of prosecution.

Ciaran Shiels, the solicitor for several of the victims' families, said: "We are disappointed that not all of those responsible are to face trial".

The Northern Ireland Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Michael Agnew, informed victim's families of the decision at a private meeting this morning.

The PPS found there was sufficient evidence to charge the ex-serviceman "Soldier F", but insufficient evidence to bring charges against 16 other former members of the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment and two IRA suspects present on the day of the killings. This includes funding all his legal costs and providing welfare support.

"We would like to remind everyone that no prosecution or if it comes to it no conviction does not mean not guilty, it does not mean that no crime was committed, it does not mean that those soldiers acted in a dignified and appropriate way", Mickey McKinney, brother to one of the victims, told a news conference.

The Attorney General should investigate whether Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has interfered in the judicial process, according to the Bloody Sunday families.

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The families campaigned for prosecutions after the Saville Inquiry found their loved ones were shot without justification.

Relatives of the deceased have waited for decades to see whether or not the individuals will be charged.

A murder investigation by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) followed the £195 million inquiry and files on 18 soldiers were submitted to prosecutors in 2016 and 2017 for consideration.

The Saville Report, which was published in 2010 after a 12-year inquiry by High Court Judge Lord Saville, reversed the findings of a hastily-convened inquiry from 1972 by another judge, Lord Widgery, who concluded the soldiers only fired after being fired upon.

The inquiry was authorised by then-Prime Minister Tony Blair in 1998 ahead of the negotiations that led to the Good Friday peace accord.

Papers before prosecutors included 668 witness statements and numerous photos, video and audio evidence.

However, the government has proposed legislation to widen the programme to offences taking place from 1968, meaning any Bloody Sunday prosecutions would be eligible. After the announcement, they were unable to hide their disappointment with the decision.

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