Family's disappointment as former RUC officer won't be prosecuted over fatal shooting of unarmed man

Family's disappointment as former RUC officer won't be prosecuted over fatal shooting of unarmed man

THE FAMILY of a man who was fatally shot more than 30 years ago while he was unarmed have expressed their disappointment that the former RUC officer involved will not be prosecuted.

Colum Marks, 29, was shot several times by the officer — identified as Officer B — during a covert RUC operation in Downpatrick, Co. Down on May 10, 1991 and passed away the following day.

Mr Marks' family believed new forensic evidence suggested he was shot in the back, however the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said on Tuesday that the evidence was not conclusive.

Sinn Féin has vowed to support Mr Marks' family 'in their pursuit of truth'.

Self-defence claim

On the day of Mr Marks' shooting, the RUC were deployed to make arrests after a mortar device was placed in the driveway of a property on St Patrick's Avenue, Downpatrick.

Officer B was deployed in a hedge at the rear of the property to carry out surveillance.

During the operation, Mr Marks ran through a hedge bordering the property into an open field in the direction of Officer B.

Officer B fired five times, with Mr Marks being struck at least twice.

Announcing their decision, the PPS said they did not believe there was a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction, suggesting the evidence was unlikely to refute Officer B's claim of self-defence.

"The Officer's account was that Mr Marks was running towards him and did not stop after warnings," said Michael Agnew, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions.

"He believed that Mr Marks would have been armed and claimed that he feared for his own life when he made a split-second decision to fire.

"In a self-defence case the court will assess the reasonableness of a defendant's actions in light of the circumstances as he may have genuinely believed them to be, even if that belief is a mistaken one.

"The evidence established that Mr Marks was unarmed when he was shot.

"However, the surrounding circumstances presented significant difficulties in proving to the criminal standard that Officer B did not have a genuine belief that his life was at risk; or that, by firing his weapon in the particular circumstances that pertained, the amount of force used was unreasonable."

'No reasonable prospect'

The PPS also addressed the new forensic evidence that suggested wounds in Mr Marks' back were entry wounds, which would indicate he had been shot in the back.

Mr Agnew said the evidence 'was not conclusive and was also inconsistent with examinations of Mr Marks' body at the time', which identified the wounds as exit wounds.

"On the available evidence, therefore, there was no reasonable prospect of proving that Officer B fired shots into the back of the deceased," he said.

"I appreciate that this is a disappointing outcome for the family of Colum Marks who have lived for many years with the painful loss of their loved one," added Mr Agnew.

Family consider 'all legal options'

In a statement, Mr Marks' mother Roisin said she believed the new evidence merited a prosecution.

"We are very disappointed by today's decision of the PPS," she said.

"It was our view that the new forensic evidence should have justified a prosecution and we will now be considering all legal options available to us, including a review by the PPS."

Sinn Féin MP for South Down, Chris Hazzard, has said he will continue to support the family in their legal fight.

"The family remains committed to finding out the full facts of what happened to Colum Marks and following today's decision, will now consider all options available to them," he said.

"Sinn Féin will continue to support the Marks family in their pursuit of truth.

"They are entitled to justice and a proper investigation and they may now pursue a review of the PPS' decision."