The brother of a man shot dead on Bloody Sunday has said he hopes a court ruling overturning the decision not to prosecute Private F for murder will be another step towards justice.
Belfast High Court has overturned the Public Prosecutor’s Office (PPS) decision to drop murder charges against the former paratrooper for two deaths in Londonderry in 1972.
Delivering the ruling in Belfast, Chief Justice Dame Siobhan McKeegan said the PPS’s decision not to proceed with the prosecution “crossed the threshold of irrationality”.
The head of the PPS said that the organization would take some time to study the court ruling.
The PPS announced last year that it would halt 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 that caused the collapse. of other problems related to the murder trial. two military veterans.
The McKinney family then launched a judicial review to challenge the PPS decision.
William McKinney’s brother, Mickey, told the PA news agency that he welcomed the court’s ruling and that the case could now proceed.
He said, “In the case of Soldier F, the judge has sent him back to the PPS to reconsider their decision. We are happy with that.
“Hopefully this will now move things forward and get the case started.
“I hope this is one step closer to justice. This thing has gone on for so many years it’s just ridiculous.
“Hopefully things start moving now and we get him to court and get justice.”
Delivering the ruling on Wednesday, the Chief Justice said: “This is a rare occasion where we consider that the decision should be overturned and reconsidered.”
He added: “We consider that the decision crosses the threshold of irrationality where it simply does not add up, that is, there is a reasoning error that makes the decision less logical.
“It follows that the matter should be left with the PPS to reconsider the decision.
“There has already been a considerable backlog in the criminal process and so it may be that the quickest and most effective course is actually to ask the district judge to rule on the issue of admissibility in the first instance.
“It may be that public confidence in the interests of justice is best served by a final judicial determination on this issue by a court duly informed on the merits.
“The PPS will now have to decide on the next steps.”
However, judicial reviews conducted by several Bloody Sunday families to challenge PPS decisions not to prosecute several veterans in the deaths of Jackie Duddy, 17, Michael Kelly, 17, John Young, 17, Michael McDaid, 20, and 41 – Bernard McGuigan, father of six children, were dismissed by the court.
The case centered on arguments over whether statements made by soldiers in 1972 would be declared inadmissible in any criminal trial.
The President of the Supreme Court said that she considered that there was “no error of law” in these decisions of the PPS.
He added: “(The PPS) has formed a permissible opinion that there is no reasonable prospect that the evidence will be admitted and, in the absence of that evidence, there is no other evidence sufficient 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. Though considered by many to be the 14th victim of Bloody Sunday, his death was formally attributed to an inoperable brain tumor.
Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland, Stephen Herron, said: “Today’s Divisional Court ruling in relation to the PPS’s decision to suspend proceedings against Soldier F recognized the difficult and complex legal issues facing prosecutors when assessing the admissibility of statements made by soldiers. under particular circumstances in 1972.
“The team involved in the prosecution of Soldier F will take some time to consider all the details of the written sentence, when it becomes available, and its impact on these proceedings.
“We will update the district judge and parties directly involved in Private F’s prosecution on the outcome of this process as soon as possible.”
Herron added: “Today’s ruling also upheld the original PPS decisions made not to prosecute other reported soldiers in connection with the events of 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 broader campaign for truth and justice.
“It is important that we engage effectively with families and we are committed to doing so.”
A lawyer representing the families of the Bloody Sunday victims has said that Soldier F should now be sent to trial.
Attorney Ciaran Shiels, of Madden and Finucane, who represents a number of the Bloody Sunday families, said: “We welcome the Divisional Court’s decision today to overturn the PPS decision to suspend prosecution against Soldier F for two counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder.”
He added: “The Public Ministry must now review its decision, taking into account the ruling of this court, and duly applying the principles and guidelines provided by it today.
“We call on the PPS to act immediately to reinstate proceedings in Derry District Judges Court against Soldier F and ensure his prosecution in Crown Court.
“The families continue to be vindicated in their long search for justice.
“We will now review this long and complex trial and consider whether further legal remedies are available to families in respect of which no soldiers will be prosecuted.”