Bloody Sunday families call for Soldier F trial to stay in Derry

Moving the trial to Belfast ‘is likely to attract protestors, or even more sinister elements’

Two children hold pictures of Bloody Sunday victims James Wray and William McKinney during a vigil in west Belfast in March 2019. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Two children hold pictures of Bloody Sunday victims James Wray and William McKinney during a vigil in west Belfast in March 2019. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Soldier F must stand trial in Derry rather than Belfast, the families of those killed on Bloody Sunday have said on the 48th anniversary of the killings.

“The awful events of that day were witnessed by the many citizens of this city, and these same citizens cannot be denied their rightful opportunity to see the law take its course,” said John McKinney, whose brother William was among the victims.

“Put F on trial in Derry. Put the families and the people of Derry first, not Soldier F and the needs of his defence team. Not the British establishment. Justice and history demands it.”

He also said the security of the families “must be a priority”, and this could not be guaranteed if the trial was to move to Belfast.

“A trial in Belfast is likely to attract protestors, or even more sinister elements. It is imperative that it happens without fear or intimidation for the families and witnesses involved.”

Thirteen people were shot dead when members of the British Army’s Parachute Regiment opened fire on an anti-internment march in Derry’s Bogside on 30 January 1972. A fourteenth died later.

In March the North’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) decided that a single soldier, known as Soldier F, would stand trial for the murders of William McKinney and Jim Wray, and the attempted murder of four others.

The case began in Derry’s Bishop Street Courthouse in September. Earlier this month, District Judge Barney McElholm said issues of suitability and security appeared likely to prevent the trial being held in Derry. “At the moment, despite trying to get somewhere closer to the city, I am afraid Belfast looks like the venue,” he said.

Proceedings have been adjourned until February 7th.

On Thursday afternoon, several hundred people gathered at the Bloody Sunday memorial in Derry’s Bogside as the names of the dead and injured were read aloud and a minute’s silence was observed.

Mr McKinney then delivered a speech to mark the 48th anniversary on behalf of majority of the families of those killed and injured on Bloody Sunday.

He said the families were against any proposal to relocate to Belfast, and said Derry’s Crown Court could be made suitable for the trial.

He added that “many family members, wounded and witnesses are now in their 60s, 70s and 80s and will not be physically able to travel to Belfast four times a week.”

Those with work commitments would find it “near impossible to attend all of these hearings we have waited 48 years for”.

The Irish Times contacted the North’s Court Service via phone and email on Thursday for comment.

Mr McKinney also said that while the families welcomed the case against Soldier F, they were “bitterly disappointed and extremely angry” that no other soldiers are to face prosecution. The decision is currently being reviewed by the PPS.

A spokeswoman from the PPS said it understood the families’ disappointment with their decision.

“At that time we engaged with the families to assist them in understanding the reasons why we concluded that the available evidence did not provide a reasonable prospect of conviction of other suspects.

“We are currently reviewing decisions not to prosecute a number of suspects reported by police, as requested by some of the victims and families involved.

“We received detailed legal submissions on behalf of victims and families in November 2019.

“We are progressing these reviews and we will continue to keep the families and victims informed,” she said.