Bloody Sunday families and SDLP leader will not be prosecuted over 'unnotified procession'

Bloody Sunday families and SDLP leader will not be prosecuted over 'unnotified procession'

FAMILIES of victims of the Bloody Sunday massacre will not be prosecuted in relation to an 'unnotified procession' which took place last summer.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) in Northern Ireland confirmed today it has "taken decisions not to prosecute seven individuals reported in connection with an unnotified procession in Derry”.

In August 2023 some relatives of Bloody Sunday victims walked with SDLP leader Colum Eastwood to the Bishop Street Courthouse in Derry to attend a court hearing involving Soldier F.

Bloody Sunday Thirteen people were killed and 15 wounded on Bloody Sunday in Derry on January 30, 1972

There were seven of them in total who attended the courthouse to hear proceedings against the former British Soldier, who is facing trial for the murder of William McKinney and James Wray and for five attempted murders on Bloody Sunday.

They were investigated by the PSNI for an alleged breach of section 6 of the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 after a complaint was made about them walking together along a number of streets on their way to the Courthouse on August 25 2023.

In Northern Ireland you you must give 28 days' notice if you want to hold a parade or procession, however the PPS claims it is not in the public interest to pursue prosecution in this case.

“After careful consideration of all evidence submitted by police and the full context in which the procession took place, decisions were taken not to prosecute all seven on public interest grounds,” they state today.

They confirmed that the public interest factors that were relevant to these decisions included the fact that the procession involved a relatively small number of people and was short in duration.

They also state that the procession was peaceful, caused no public disorder and no need for the deployment of any policing resource.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has welcomed the news

They added that “no harm or damage occurred and there was minimal disruption or inconvenience caused to traffic or the general public” and “no complaints were made by any members of the local community and there was no other evidence of any negative community impact caused by the procession”.

A PPS spokeswoman said: “It was considered that the conduct of the reported individuals did amount to participation in a public procession and that their procession had not been subject to the legal notification required.

“However, the purpose of having legislative regulation of parades and processions in Northern Ireland is to control public disorder and damage, to minimise disruption to the life of the community and to enhance community relations.”

She added: “In this particular case, it was clear that the procession investigated did not raise any of those risks and therefore the public interest would not be served by pursuing criminal proceedings.

“This decision was reached impartially, independently and fully in line with the PPS Code for Prosecutors.

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood had welcomed today’s decision.

“The PPS decision today is the right one,” he said.

“Families who walked to court together and were joined by their representatives should not have been put through this ordeal on top of 50 years of injustice.

“I am glad that common sense has at last prevailed.”

He added: “This entire process has added more hurt to families who have endured decades of pain.

“The complaint was completely vexatious and those responsible should be ashamed.

“This episode cannot be allowed to distract from what is truly important – accountability for what happened in Derry on that day.

“The SDLP will continue to stand by the families as they continue their fight and will be by their side until the very end.”