Bloody Sunday 'false evidence' claims don't meet prosecution test: PPS

Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service has decided against taking 15 Army veterans and one alleged Official IRA member to court over allegations of false evidence given to the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday.

The PPS has determined, after a PSNI investigation, the test for prosecution has not been met meaning there was no reasonable prospect of securing a conviction in the cases.

It said the evidence was "insufficient". The PPS senior prosecutor responsible acknowledged the decision would disappoint families and it would be another "difficult day for them".

"We have written to them to explain in detail the reasons for the decisions," John O'Neill said.

"We would like to provide assurance that these decisions were taken impartially, independently and only after the most thorough and careful consideration of all available evidence and the relevant legal issues.”

Family representatives expressed their disappointment and said they would not rule out a challenge to the decision.

John Kelly, whose 17-year-old brother Michael was murdered on Bloody Sunday said on behalf of the Bloody Sunday families and wounded: “The families of Bloody Sunday who sit here today disappointed and perplexed by this decision not to prosecute a single soldier for perjury ask themselves rhetorically: “‘Why is it that the people of Derry cannot forget the events of Bloody Sunday, yet the Parachute Regiment, who caused all of the deaths and injury on that day, apparently cannot recall it?’

“The answer to this question is quite simple but painfully obvious.

“The British Army lied its way through the conflict in the north.

“Accountability was never an option.

“And it is clear from the events of Bloody Sunday that killing unarmed civilians and lying about the circumstances of those murders never operated as a bar to individual promotions for soldiers, but in fact helped endear themselves to their superior officers and authorities.

“We consider that today’s ruling by the PPS is an affront to the rule of law and a continuation of the injustice that was perpetrated on Bloody Sunday.”

Ciarán Shiels, representative for the families

Bloody Sunday was one of the darkest days in the history of the Northern Ireland Troubles. Thirteen people were killed on the day, and another man shot by paratroopers died four months later. Many consider him the 14th victim of Bloody Sunday, but his death was formally attributed to an inoperable brain tumour. One former soldier - known as Soldier F - is facing prosecution for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney and the attempted murder of five others.

The Saville Inquiry was the longest running inquiry of its type in UK legal history taking 12 years to report after the then Prime Minister Tony Blair established it.

Its findings turned the discredited 1972 Widgery report on its head. It exonerated the victims and delivered a damning account of the conduct of soldiers, concluding they had fired more than 100 rifle rounds and were unjustified in killing 13 people on the day and injuring more.

On the claims regarding evidence to the inquiry, PPS Senior Public Prosecutor John O’Neill said: “All decisions on whether or not to prosecute are taken by independently and impartially applying the Test for Prosecution.

"The standard of proof needed for a criminal prosecution is high. For a conviction, the prosecution must establish beyond a reasonable doubt, through available and admissible evidence, the commission of a criminal offence by the suspect. “After careful consideration, it has been concluded that the available evidence in this case is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction of any suspect for offences in relation to the giving of false evidence. “The decision making involved the consideration of a vast amount of material. Consideration of the allegations of false evidence presented particularly complex evidential and legal issues, all of which were thoroughly analysed by the prosecution team."

Mr O'Neill explained there were three particular issues which arose.

"Firstly, although the Bloody Sunday Inquiry may have rejected the evidence of individuals, it did not always express those findings in terms amounting to the criminal standard of proof.

"That is the standard which the PPS must consider. Secondly, many of the findings related to the rejection of accounts given by former soldiers in 1972.

"The PPS has concluded that, for a number of legal reasons, those accounts from 1972 would not be admissible in criminal proceedings today.

"Thirdly, the full amount of evidence upon which the Bloody Sunday Inquiry based its findings is not generally available to the prosecution today. Issues arise in respect of the admissibility of evidence and its availability, since not all witnesses who provided evidence to the Inquiry provided witness statements to the PSNI."

He added: “I wish to make clear that these decisions not to prosecute in no way undermine the findings of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry that those killed or injured were not posing a threat to any of the soldiers. “We acknowledge that these prosecutorial decisions will be disappointing to the victims and families involved, and that this may be another difficult day for them."

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