PPS upholds decision not to prosecute 15 soldiers in connection with Bloody Sunday

29 September 2020

An internal review of the Public Prosecution Service’s (PPS) decisions not to prosecute 15 soldiers reported in connection with the events of Bloody Sunday has resulted in those decisions being upheld.

The PPS has today (Tuesday 29th September 2020) communicated this outcome to the families of those killed and to those injured victims who requested formal reviews of the decisions taken in March 2019 not to prosecute 15 former members of the military. The range of potential offences allegedly committed on 30th January 1972 included murder, attempted murder and causing grievous bodily injury with intent.   

All reviews were undertaken by PPS Senior Assistant Director Marianne O’Kane, who was not previously involved in the cases. The requests received related specifically to the deaths of ten of the victims who died on the day, as well as ten others who were injured.

In line with the review process set out by the PPS Code for Prosecutors, Ms O’Kane applied the Test for Prosecution afresh to the large volume of complex evidence and information considered by the original PPS decision-maker in order to reach new decisions. Detailed legal submissions received were also considered in the course of the reviews.

She has taken new decisions in respect of each review request and concluded that the Test for Prosecution is not met on evidential grounds to prosecute any of the 15 soldiers in connection with the specific deaths or injuries sustained on 30th January 1972.  All parties who requested a review received a detailed explanation of this outcome in writing earlier this morning. The 15 suspects concerned were also informed.

Marianne O’Kane said: “In March 2019, the PPS engaged extensively with the families of those killed and injured on Bloody Sunday to explain the reasons why the original decision-maker concluded that the available evidence did not meet the Test for Prosecution for all but one suspect reported.

“Given the importance of these decisions to all affected by them and the extensive public interest in the events of Bloody Sunday, the deep disappointment felt by many families at that time was wholly understandable.  This was despite assurances received from the PPS that its decision-making had been conducted in an independent, fair and impartial manner.  It was therefore also understandable that a number of the bereaved families and injured victims subsequently exercised their right to request a review of decisions relating to 15 of those suspects originally reported. 

“The reviews process began substantively in November 2019, after receipt of all legal submissions, and involved applying the Test for Prosecution afresh to all available evidence submitted by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) from 2016-17.

“I have concluded that the available evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction of any of the 15 soldiers who were the subjects of the reviews. Accordingly, the decisions not to prosecute these 15 individuals all stand.

“I know that today’s outcome will cause further upset to those who have pursued a long and determined journey for justice over almost five decades.  I can only offer reassurance to all of the families and victims of Bloody Sunday, and the wider community, that my decisions were conducted wholly independently and impartially, and in accordance with the Code for Prosecutors. 

“Finally, it is important to note that while Soldier F is among the 15 individuals to which these new decisions relate, the prosecution that commenced against him in 2019, which relates to two charges of murder and five charges of attempted murder, continues.”  

ENDS

GUIDANCE:

  1. Twenty suspects were reported to the PPS by the PSNI in 2016, in relation to the events on the ground on Bloody Sunday. This included 18 soldiers, one of whom has since died, and two Official IRA suspects. The first file from police was received in November 2016, with further files submitted in 2017.
  2. The PPS issued initial decisions as to prosecution in relation to these 19 individuals on 14th March 2019.
  3. One of the decisions taken in March 2019 was to prosecute one former soldier, known as Soldier F, for the murder of James Wray and William McKinney, the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joseph Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell and a fifth charge of attempted murder of persons unknown.
  4. In respect of the other 18 suspects, and in respect of further alleged shooting by Soldier F, it was concluded that the available evidence was insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction.
  5. As a prosecution is currently on-going against Soldier F, the PPS would ask that there is no reporting, commentary or sharing of information on-line from other parties which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.  
  6. The review process included 15 soldiers originally reported to the PPS, including Soldier F who was considered afresh in connection with other victims killed or wounded on Bloody Sunday, separate to those listed above.
  7. Review requests received related specifically to the deaths of William Nash, Bernard McGuigan, John Duddy, Michael Kelly, Hugh Gilmour, Michael McDaid, John Young, Kevin McElhinney, William McKinney (in respect of an individual other than Soldier F) and Patrick Doherty.
  8. All decisions by the PPS are taken strictly in accordance with the Test for Prosecution which involves two stages. The Test for Prosecution is met if, in relation to an identifiable suspect, the available evidence is sufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of a conviction (the Evidential Test) and if prosecution is in the public interest (the Public Interest Test). The Evidential Test must be passed first before the Public Interest Test is considered. Further information can be found in the PPS Code for Prosecutors. 
  9. The PPS review process is also set out in full by the Code for Prosecutors. Further information on the process and parameters can be found here.
  10. Media queries for the PPS should be referred to the Communications Unit by emailing ppspressoffice@ppsni.gov.uk inside office hours. The out of hours press officer can be contacted on 07920 271 804 and 07795 480234.