The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has today issued decisions in relation to seven former soldiers reported in connection with six incidents, including two deaths, involving Military Reaction Force (MRF) activity over 50 years ago.
A team of senior prosecutors has completed a careful examination of all the available evidence submitted in two files by the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Legacy Investigation Branch (LIB). These files relate to the activity of a temporary Army unit operating in Belfast in 1972 known as the MRF.
In relation to the first file, on which five soldiers were reported, decisions have been taken:
To prosecute one former soldier, known as Soldier F, for the murder of 44-year-old Patrick McVeigh who was shot at the junction of Finaghy Road North and Riverdale Park South on 13th May 1972;
To further prosecute Soldier F for the attempted murder of four other victims wounded in this same incident;
To prosecute Soldier F and three other former soldiers – known as Soldiers B, C and D – for the attempted murder of two victims during a shooting incident in Slievegallion Drive on 12th May 1972;
Not to prosecute the one surviving suspect in relation to a shooting incident at Silvio Street on 26th May 1972 after which no injuries were reported;
Not to prosecute the one surviving suspect in relation to an incident at the Glen Road Bus Terminus on 22nd June 1972 in which four victims suffered gunshot wounds.
The LIB also investigated a shooting on the Glen Road on 6th May 1972 in which one victim suffered a gunshot wound. However, no decision issued in that case as all of the suspects are deceased.
The surviving suspects in the Silvio Street incident and the shooting at the Glen Road Bus Terminus had not discharged their weapons and there was insufficient evidence to establish that they were party to any joint enterprise with those soldiers, now deceased, who had fired.
The second file submitted by the LIB related to an incident in which 18-year-old Daniel Rooney was shot dead at St James’ Road on 26th September 1972 and a second man suffered a gunshot wound. This incident involved a separate MRF unit from that referred to above. Police reported two former soldiers, known as Soldiers A and C, for consideration on this file. Both were considered for the potential charge of murder and attempted murder.
After a thorough consideration of all evidence in this file, it was concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute any individual for any offence. The reasons for the decision in this case included difficulties with the admissibility of accounts obtained from the soldiers in 1972 and the inability of a series of recent forensic examinations to provide evidence capable of resolving significant conflicts within the evidence.
PPS Assistant Director Martin Hardy said all victims and families involved in the above investigations were informed of these decisions today.
He said: “Regardless of the differing outcomes in relation to each incident examined, we in the PPS recognise that this is a painful day for all victims and families involved and that they have waited a long time to reach this stage of the process.
“Where a decision to prosecute has been taken, I would emphasise that criminal proceedings will commence in due course and there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information which could in any way prejudice these proceedings. We will keep in touch with the relevant victims and families as these cases progress.
“Where a decision not to prosecute has been taken, I can assure victims and families involved that the prosecution team, which included an independent senior barrister, considered the available evidence thoroughly, independently and impartially.
“A prosecution can only be brought when the evidence presents a reasonable prospect of conviction at court for any reported individual. Each case is considered in light of its own individual facts and circumstances. In these decisions not to prosecute, the admissibility, availability and sufficiency of evidence were key factors in reaching a conclusion that the Test for Prosecution was not met.”
Mr Hardy said victims and families who were today notified of a decision not to prosecute had received a detailed written explanation of the reasons, along with an offer to meet with the prosecution team.
Notes to editors
1. The individuals referred to above as Soldier F, Soldier A and Soldier C are not the same individuals involved in any previous or on-going prosecution relating to events in Northern Ireland in 1972.
2. In November 2013 the then Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory KC, referred this case to the Chief Constable for investigation pursuant to Section 35(5) of the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002. This referral stemmed from the content of a BBC Panorama programme.
3. PPS decisions are taken 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). Further detail is contained in the Code for Prosecutors.
4. As a decision to prosecute has now been taken, this case will not be affected by the relevant provisions in the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act 2023. The PPS is proceeding to prepare necessary papers and a date for the defendants’ first appearance in court will issue in due course.
5. Media queries for the PPS should be referred to the Communications Unit by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org inside office hours. The out of hours press officer can be contacted on 07920 271 804 or 07795 480234.