Soldiers 'cannot live in constant fear of prosecution'

A former British soldier is set to be prosecuted in connection with the deaths of two civil rights protester

Pic: Niall Carson/PA Wire Families of those died march through the Bogside in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, towards the Guildhall ahead of the announcement as to whether 17 former British soldiers and two former members of the Official IRA will be prosecuted in connection with the events of Bloody Sunday in the city in January 1972.

"The decision to prosecute just one ex-soldier does not change the fact that Bloody Sunday was a massacre of innocents", Sinn Fein's Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill said in a statement.

It is signed by the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, and lays out arrangements for soldiers who "are subject to investigations by the Police Service of Northern Ireland", or "who may be required to participate in other legal processes, such as inquests and public inquiries".

The PPS has concluded that there is evidence available to prosecute a former soldier for the murder of two of the 13 people who were killed in the Bogside area of Londonderry on January 30 1972.

"In these circumstances the evidence Test for Prosecution is not met".

The letter went on: "The Ministry of Defence has ensured that all veterans under investigation in Bloody Sunday are aware of the support available, either via their legal representatives or directly".

However, the government has proposed legislation to widen the programme to offences taking place from 1968, meaning any Bloody Sunday prosecutions would be eligible. One injured man died four months later.

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

Following the publication of the Saville report in 2010, then prime minister David Cameron apologised for the Army's actions, branding them "unjustified and unjustifiable".

The complex investigation files included 668 witness statements, numerous physical exhibits such as photographs, video and audio recordings, and a total of 125,000 pages of material.

Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland, Stephen Herron said he was conscious relatives faced an "extremely hard day".

Police also investigated whether any suspects perjured themselves while giving evidence to the long-running Bloody Sunday inquiry.

Reflecting on his meeting with the families, the director added: "I am mindful that it has been a long road for the families to reach this point and today will be another extremely hard day for many of them". We wanted to meet with them personally to explain the prosecution decisions taken and to help them understand the reasons.

The government-commissioned inquiry, undertaken by Lord Saville, found none of the victims was posing a threat to soldiers when they were shot.

"We have spent time with them this morning, given them detailed information and we are committed to further engagement over the coming period".

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