THE families of five Bloody Sunday victims’ have been given the green light to challenge the Public Prosecution Service’s (PPS) decision not to prosecute former British soldiers for their actions in Derry in 1972.
The ruling follows a legal challenge against the PPS decision to charge no more than one soldier.
Permission for a judicial review of the controversial ruling was granted on Thursday, April 22 and it is due to begin in September.
Fearghal Shiels, of Madden & Finucane Solicitors, who are representing the families, said they all "warmly welcomed the decision".
“The families of Jackie Duddy, Michael Kelly, John Young, Michael McDaid, and William McKinney have this afternoon been granted permission by the High Court to challenge decisions by the PPS not to prosecute five former members of Support Company, 1st Battalion the Parachute Regiment, for their murders on Bloody Sunday, 30 January 1972," the Belfast-based legal firm said in a statement issued on April 22.
“The judicial review challenge has been listed for hearing for five days beginning on 20 September 2021,” they confirmed.
Mr Shiels, a solicitor with the firm, added: “The families were notified of the High Court’s decision late this afternoon.
“This application arises out of decisions taken in March 2019 by the PPS not to prosecute these soldiers, and a decision upheld after an internal review of that decision by the PPS in September 2020.
“The families warmly welcome today’s decision and look forward with confidence to the full hearing in the autumn.”
John Kelly, the brother of Bloody Sunday victim Michael Kelly, welcomed the "great news."
Great news. The High Court has granted the Bloody Sunday Families permission to challenge the PPS decision not to prosecute other killers involved in the massacre of their loved ones. Another step forward on the road to truth and justice. The families will never give up. pic.twitter.com/o740dz6MIs — John Kelly (@JohnKel45287666) April 22, 2021
Great news. The High Court has granted the Bloody Sunday Families permission to challenge the PPS decision not to prosecute other killers involved in the massacre of their loved ones. Another step forward on the road to truth and justice. The families will never give up. pic.twitter.com/o740dz6MIs
— John Kelly (@JohnKel45287666) April 22, 2021
It comes in the wake of a separate ruling granting the family of Bernard McGuigan, another Bloody Sunday victim, the right to seek a judicial review against the decision not to charge Soldier F with his murder.
In March 2019, Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said there was only enough evidence to prosecute one individual.
“It has been concluded that there is sufficient available evidence to prosecute one former soldier, Soldier F, for the murder of James Wray and William McKinney; and for the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon, and Patrick O’Donnell," they stated.
“In respect of the other 18 suspects, including 16 former soldiers and two alleged Official IRA members, it has been concluded that the available evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction.
"In these circumstances, the evidential Test for Prosecution is not met.”
In September 2020 following a review, the PPS declared its intention not to prosecute any other British soldiers in relation to Bloody Sunday.
In a statement issued at the time, PPS Senior Assistant Director Marianne O’Kane said: “I have concluded that the available evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction of any of the 15 soldiers who were the subjects of the reviews.
"Accordingly, the decisions not to prosecute these 15 individuals all stand."
O'Kane went on to say: "It is important to note that while Soldier F is among the 15 individuals to which these new decisions relate, the prosecution that commenced against him in 2019, which relates to two charges of murder and five charges of attempted murder, continues.”
The rulings come at the same time as the resignation of the UK Veterans ministers, Johnny Mercer, who was reportedly dissatisfied with the UK government's progress in protecting British soldiers from investigation and prosecution for crimes committed in Northern Ireland.