PPS issues decisions in relation to allegations of false evidence to Bloody Sunday Inquiry

Publication date:

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has taken decisions not to prosecute 16 individuals in relation to allegations of false evidence relating to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. 

The Police Service of Northern Ireland previously submitted an investigation file to the PPS in relation to allegations of murder and attempted murder on Bloody Sunday. Those reported included former soldiers and alleged members of the Official IRA and a decision to prosecute one soldier, known as Soldier F, issued in 2019. At the time, the PPS explained that consideration would also then be given as to whether the Test for Prosecution was met in respect of allegations that those reported had given false evidence in connection with the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. 

The prosecution team, which included senior independent counsel, has now carefully considered all the available evidence in the investigation file and the content of the Report of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry in respect of allegations of the giving of false evidence. 

The prosecution team has determined that the available evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction of any suspect considered, which include 15 former soldiers and one former alleged member of the Official IRA. 

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.

“Three particular issues 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. 

“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. We have written to them to explain in detail the reasons for the decisions. 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.”



  • Clarification on numbers of suspects: Decisions in relation to murders and attempted murders on Bloody Sunday issued in respect of 19 reported individuals, 17 former soldiers and two alleged former members of the Official IRA, on 14th March 2019. At that time, the PPS published a statement on its website. Since then two of these former soldiers have died, as has one of the alleged members of the Official IRA.  The Test for Prosecution cannot be applied to those who are deceased. Therefore the decisions issuing today (19.04.24) relate to the 15 former soldiers and one former alleged member of the Official IRA.
  • The decision making in this case has taken some time to conclude for a number of reasons, including the complexity and volume of the evidence. It has also been necessary to deal first with the substantive allegations in relation to the events of 30th January 1972 as those decisions as to prosecution were relevant to decision making. 
  • The decisions not to prosecute some of the former soldiers for murder and attempted murder (which were upheld in an internal PPS review) were subject to a challenge by way of an application for Judicial Review heard in the High Court. The view of the PPS was that the ruling in that case may be of significance to the decision-making in relation to allegations of false evidence and as such the outcome of that Judicial Review was awaited.  The judgment in that case was delivered on 23 March 2022
  • One of the soldiers reported on the file that is the subject of today’s decisions (19.04.24) is Soldier F who is currently being prosecuted 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 charge of attempted murder of persons unknown. More detail can be found on the PPS website Today’s decisions do not impact on the decision to prosecute Soldier F for these offences.
  • More information on the Bloody Sunday Inquiry can be found on the UK government website Bloody Sunday Inquiry - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
  • 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). The Evidential Test must be passed before the Public Interest Test is considered. Further detail is contained in the Code for Prosecutors.
  • 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 271804 or 07795 480234.