A decision by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) to discontinue a murder prosecution of Soldier F for two deaths on Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972 has been quashed at the High Court in Belfast.
Delivering the ruling, Lady Chief Justice Siobhan McKeegan said the decision by the PPS not to continue the prosecution “crossed the threshold of irrationality”.
The PPS announced last year it was discontinuing the prosecution of Soldier F for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney. This came amid concerns the case could collapse in light of a separate court ruling on the admissibility of evidence which caused the collapse of another Troubles (name for the 30-year conflict in Ireland) murder trial involving two military veterans.
The McKinney family then launched a judicial review to challenge the PPS decision.
Following the High Court decision, campaigners expressed their delight while also acknowledging there’s still some way to go. They restated that their quest for justice will continue:
#SoldierF: decision to drop #BloodySunday murder charges against the former paratrooper overturned by NI High Court. Well done to the Wray and McKinney families + their legal teams. But sorrow for others as decisions not to prosecute in other cases upheld.https://t.co/2rVYgqtBkC
— Bloody Sunday 50th Anniversary (@BloodySunday50) March 23, 2022
Great news. The High Court has overturned the decision by the PPS not to continue the prosecution of child killer soldier F for murder and attempted murder on Bloody Sunday. Back to court we go.
Bad news. 12 other shooters will not face justice.
The fight for justice goes on. pic.twitter.com/XbTsMm53Sd
— JJKELLY (@JohnKelly1948) March 23, 2022
— Madden & Finucane Solicitors (@madden_finucane) March 23, 2022
“There has already been considerable delay”
Delivering the verdict on Wednesday, the Lady Chief Justice said:
We consider that the decision crosses the threshold of irrationality where it simply does not add up, or in other words there is an error of reasoning which robs the decision of logic.
It follows that the matter should remain with the PPS to reconsider the decision.
There has already been considerable delay in the criminal process and so it may be that the swiftest and most effective course is actually for the district judge to be asked to rule on the admissibility issue in the first instance.
It may be that public confidence in the interests of justice are best served by a definitive judicial determination on this issue by a court properly seized of the merits.
The PPS will now have to decide on the next steps.
However, judicial reviews taken by a number of other Bloody Sunday families to challenge the PPS not to take prosecutions against five other veterans were dismissed by the court. The Lady Chief Justice said she considered there was “no error in law” in these decisions.
Bloody Sunday was one of the darkest days in the North of Ireland’s history. British soldiers shot dead 13 civil rights protesters in the Bogside area of Derry with a 14th person dying four months later.
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