Court authorities urged to 'get real' over Soldier F case

The families of men shot dead on Bloody Sunday say court authorities should "get real" and ensure the case against a former paratrooper accused of murder is heard in Londonderry.

It follows yet another delay in deciding where the ex-paratrooper known as Soldier F should appear in court.

Soldier F is accused of murdering James Wray and William McKinney on 30 January 1972, when troops opened fire on civil rights demonstrators in the Bogside area of Derry, killing 13 people.

Liam Wray, brother of James Wray, said: "The atrocity happened in Derry. It was witnessed by many, many people.

“The majority of witnesses in this case are going to be Derry people. For them to have to trip up to Belfast, which is not an easy journey, would be ridiculous.

"It's about time people got real, it's about time to say justice should be seen to be done and it should be heard to be done too in this courthouse."

James Wray and William McKinney. Credit: Pacemaker

Soldier F also stands accused of the attempted murders of Patrick O'Donnell, Joseph Friel, Joe Mahon and Michael Quinn.

He faces a seventh supporting charge of the attempted murder of a person or persons unknown on the day.

While preliminary court proceedings have been heard in Bishop Street court in Derry, the court authorities are deliberating whether a committal hearing and any potential future trial should be moved to Belfast.

It comes amid security concerns about staging the proceedings in Derry and practical issues about the size and acoustics of the court facilities in the city.

Soldier F has yet to appear in person at any preliminary hearings, but would be required to attend his committal.

District Judge Barnie McElholm had indicated that a decision on the venue would be outlined to the court on Monday.

However, at the brief hearing Mark Mulholland QC, barrister for Solider F, asked for time to make a submission.

He said his client wanted to respond to a submission on the location made by Mr Wray on behalf of the bereaved families.

Mr Mulholland also noted that the management of the case was due to be passed from Judge McElhom to fellow district judge Paul Magill.

Granting the adjournment for Mr Mulholland to lodge submissions, Judge McElholm said the court authorities had been undertaking work to establish the suitability of several venues.

"These things are not simple but there's a lot of work going on in the background," he said.

The judge adjourned the matter until 26 March, when he said Judge Magill would decide on the venue and set a date for the committal hearing.