Northern Ireland PPS outlines reasons behind decision on Bloody Sunday 'unnotified parade' complaint

Colum Eastwood was among those reported to police over the incident.

Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service has said it will not prosecute seven people including members of some Bloody Sunday families and the Foyle MP Colum Eastwood reported over an alleged unnotified procession in Londonderry.

Mr Eastwood said 'common sense had prevailed'.

Police investigated a complaint in relation to an event on August 25, which saw members of the Bloody Sunday families walking together to Bishop Street Courthouse for a hearing in relation to the prosecution of Soldier F. Soldier F, a former paratrooper who cannot be identified, is accused of murdering James Wray and William McKinney when members of the Parachute Regiment shot dead 13 civil rights protesters on the streets of the city in 1972 in an event known as Bloody Sunday. He is also charged with five attempted murders.

Loyalist activist Jamie Bryson said he complained to police about the incident.

Police investigated if the August event fell under legislation In Northern Ireland that requires organisers of public processions to give advance notice to a Parades Commission. It is an offence to organise or participate in an unnotified parade or related protest.

Following the police probe, they sent a file to the PPS for consideration.

On Thursday the PPS said it had taken the decision not to prosecute outlining its reasoning.

It said the 'public interest factors' included:

  • The procession involved a relatively small number of people and was short in duration.

  • It was peaceful and caused no public disorder (or any apparent risk of public disorder) and no need for the deployment of any policing resource)

  • No harm or damage occurred and there was minimal disruption or inconvenience caused to traffic or the general public

  • No complaints were made by any members of the 'local community' and there was no other evidence of any negative community impact caused by the procession.

Welcoming the decision, MP Colum Eastwood said: "The people of Derry have been standing with the Bloody Sunday families for over 50 years and nothing will ever change that. “The PPS decision today is the right one. Families who walked to court together and were joined by their representatives should not have been put through this ordeal on top of 50 years of injustice. I am glad that common sense has at last prevailed. “This entire process has added more hurt to families who have endured decades of pain. The complaint was completely vexatious and those responsible should be ashamed. “This episode cannot be allowed to distract from what is truly important – accountability for what happened in Derry on that day. The SDLP will continue to stand by the families as they continue their fight and will be by their side until the very end.”

A PPS statement said that after careful consideration of all evidence submitted by police and “the full context in which the procession took place, decisions were taken not to prosecute all seven on public interest grounds”. A PPS spokeswoman said: “It was considered that the conduct of the reported individuals did amount to participation in a public procession and that their procession had not been subject to the legal notification required. “However, the purpose of having legislative regulation of parades and processions in Northern Ireland is to control public disorder and damage, to minimise disruption to the life of the community and to enhance community relations. “In this particular case, it was clear that the procession investigated did not raise any of those risks and therefore the public interest would not be served by pursuing criminal proceedings.”

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