09/02/2024

PPS To Prosecute Former Soldier For Murder Of Patrick McVeigh In 1972

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has issued a decision to seek prosecutions against four former Military Reaction Force (MRF) soldiers in connection with six incidents 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.
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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.

Acknowledging the PPS decisions, Detective Chief Superintendent Claire McGuigan, Head of Legacy Investigation Branch said: "The Police Service of Northern Ireland acknowledges today’s decision by the Public Prosecution Service to prosecute four individuals in this matter.

"Following a referral from the Public Prosecution Service, the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Legacy Investigation Branch investigated the activities of the Military Reaction Force, on the grounds that criminal offences may have been committed following a BBC Panorama programme on the unit which resulted in the forwarding of the two files to the Public Prosecution Service for their consideration.

"We recognise that this will undoubtedly be a difficult and emotional time for all of the families involved and we are reflective of the long journey this has been for the families. Our thoughts are with every one of those families today.

"Given the pending prosecutions we are unable to comment further at this time."

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