Bloody Sunday: Case against Soldier F is adjourned until December

Former British soldier is accused of murdering two men during 1972 shooting

Bloody Sunday victims’ family members make their way to a Derry courthouse as the first listing of the case against Soldier F takes place. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Bloody Sunday victims’ family members make their way to a Derry courthouse as the first listing of the case against Soldier F takes place. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

 

The case against the former British soldier accused of two counts of murder in Derry on Bloody Sunday on January 30th, 1972, began on Wednesday in a Derry courtroom.

Soldier F, a former member of the elite Parachute Regiment, faces charges of murdering two civilians, William McKinney and Jim Wray, in the city on Bloody Sunday.

He also faces four charges of attempted murder in relation to Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell, who were injured on the day.

In addtion, the soldier, who cannot be named following a court ruling, faces an additional charge of attempted murder against a person or persons unknown in the Bogside shooting.

Thirteen people were killed on Bloody Sunday when the regiment opened fire on anti-internment marchers. A 14th died later. Soldier F was not present for the brief committal hearing on Wednesday.

It was held in the Magistrates Court in the city’s Bishop Street courthouse. His legal team is contesting the committal; in such circumstances, he is not legally required to attend.

The public gallery was filled by the relatives of those killed on Bloody Sunday -–the majority members of the McKinney and Wray families – as well as some of those injured on the day.

Earlier, they had gathered at the Bloody Sunday memorial in Derry’s Bogside to walk with other relatives and supporters to the courthouse.

Speaking outside before the hearing, John McKinney, whose brother William is one of the two men the prosecution allege were murdered by Soldier F, said that it had been an “emotional rollercoaster” for the families, and he was glad to see the case finally begin.

“This is what we’ve been campaigning for all these years,” he said. “We hope this is the final chapter.”

They would continue to campaign, he said, on behalf of the families of the rest of the victims of Bloody Sunday.

“The rest of the families are in our minds as we walk into court today.”

Full consideration

Following a brief, eight-minute hearing, the district judge, Barney McElholm, approved a defence application to adjourn the case until December 4th to allow time to “fully consider the voluminous papers”. He said this would also give time for the defence to ascertain which witnesses would be required, and for the North’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) to establish their availability.

“All that I accept will take some time,” he said, “and it is important that this is all done with a degree of fairness to all concerned in the matter.”

Mr McElholm also granted a defence application for an interim order to preserve Soldier F’s anonymity, and instructed that his identity should not be disclosed by any means.

Speaking outside the court, Ciarán Shiels of Madden & Finucane solicitors, which represents the majority of Bloody Sunday relatives, said he intended to make a submission to the PPS that this be lifted so that Soldier F be prosecuted “in a transparent manner as consistent with the majority of prosecutions of soldiers in respect of the murder and attempted murder of Irish civilians here”.

Questioned by reporters as to the location of any potential trial, Mr Shiels said that there had been no indication during the brief court hearing that Soldier F’s defence team intended to make an application regarding venue.

But he said he expected that any trial would ultimately take place in a Diplock (judge-only) court in the Crown Court in Belfast.

He acknowledged that legal proceedings were likely to be lengthy, but said “the families are in it for the long haul”.

The PPS announced in March that it would prosecute Soldier F following an investigation by the PSNI which was launched after the publication of the Saville Report in 2010.

The public inquiry, chaired by Lord Saville, found that all of those killed on Bloody Sunday were innocent victims, and that none had posed a threat when they were shot.