16/06/2010

Prosecutions 'Difficult' Over Bloody Sunday

There are to be high level discussions over any possible Bloody Sunday prosecutions.

Following the publication of the Saville report, and Prime Minister David Cameron abject apology over what happened in Londonderry on Bloody Sunday - where he said he was "deeply sorry" - and that the killings were "unjustified and unjustifiable", legal action against those who fired the shots may now be considered.

However, it would not "be straightforward to bring prosecutions". According to the BBC's Legal Affairs Correspondent Clive Coleman - despite the findings - there needs to be sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction, "not an easy test after 38 years", he said.

"If any defendant believes that the passage of time makes a fair trial impossible, they could argue the prosecution was an abuse of process," the leading correspondent said.

"Any prosecutions would also need to be judged to be in the public interest."

Following the report, the decision to prosecute any individual soldier rests with Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service (PPS).

In a statement, the PPS said its director and the PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott would consider the report to determine the nature and extent of any police investigations.

The brother of an Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) man killed by the IRA in the weeks leading up to Bloody Sunday has said prosecuting the paratroopers involved would be a "massive blow to the peace process".
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Lisburn Ulster Unionist (UUP) councillor Ronnie Crawford lost his 38-year-old brother Maynard in January 1972 when the UDR soldier was shot and killed by the IRA at a building site in Newtownabbey.

The UUP man told the News Letter speculation that soldiers could now be prosecuted for their role in the shootings "would be a massive blow to the peace process".

Ulster Unionist Party leader Sir Reg Empey has also responded to the release of the Saville Report: "Clearly and rightly the onus will always be on Ministers of the Crown to account for the actions of the military, and David Cameron shouldered that responsibility.

"However, while some families may have had a degree of closure today, very many others have not been so fortunate.

"In the days before Bloody Sunday, two RUC officers - Peter Gilgunn and David Montgomery - were shot dead in the Creggan area.

"Their families have not received justice. Nobody has apologised to their families for their murders, despite the IRA having claimed responsibility for their killings," he said.

"With over 3,600 killed, some inquiries have been held or are underway, but most deaths appear to have been forgotten.

"It unfortunately appears that some deaths are regarded as more significant than others. This is no way to build a shared future," he commented.

Appealing for an end to Inquiry-mentality, he said: "NI cannot endure an endless list of Saville-type inquiries. We cannot continually be dragged back to our darkest years.

"The question now facing Northern Ireland is whether we continue to pursue costly individual cases or are we, as a society, to concentrate on building a shared future, freed from the mistakes of the past," he concluded.

(BMcC/GK)

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