Soldier F to stand trial

Soldier F to stand trial

A FORMER British soldier is to be charged with the murder of Patrick McVeigh (44) a Belfast man who was gunned down in the city. Mr McVeigh was killed on at Finaghy Road North in May 1972. He was shot in the back.

Soldier F, whose identity is not being disclosed, is also facing a charge of attempted murder in Belfast in 1972.

Three other former soldiers will also face prosecution for attempted murder.

The BBC reports that the move was announced by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) after examining evidence submitted following a police investigation.

Due to the timing of the decisions, the cases are not affected by the Legacy Act, the legislation enacted last year which offers amnesties in Troubles cases.

The controversial legislation will curtail all future prosecutions related to the Troubles from May 1 this year. The legislation was opposed by all the main political parties in the North as well victims’ support groups.

The daughter of Patrick McVeigh, Pat McVeigh, told the BBC her father deserved to have "someone held accountable for his murder". She added: “"He wasn't a gunman, never was; we need his name cleared."

Along with Soldiers B, C, and D, Soldier F he is also to be charged with the attempted murder of two people in a separate shooting at Slievegallon Drive in west Belfast, also in May 1972.

All the shootings involved a undercover Army unit called the Military Reaction Force (MRF), which operated in Belfast in the early 1970s. They were a covert intelligence-gathering and counterinsurgency unit which numbered about 40 soldiers. The operated dressed in plain clothes and civilian vehicles, but were heavily armed.

The unit operated for about 18 months before it was disbanded in 1973.

In 2013, former members of the unit told a BBC Panorama programme that the unit had been involved in the killing of unarmed civilians.

The then director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory, instructed the Police Service of Northern (PSNI) to investigate the claims.

The PPS said in a related case involving the killing of 18-year-old Daniel Rooney at St James Road, west Belfast, in September 1972 that there was insufficient evidence to bring any charges

Det Ch Supt Claire McGuigan, head of the PSNI's Legacy Investigation Branch, toold the BBC that her units thoughts were with the families.

"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," she added.

The Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris reacted to the PPS announcement by saying the judicial process was working but such cases were "becoming vanishingly infrequent".

He said the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR) would help "thousands of people" get information about their loved ones.

Sinn Féin MP John Finucane welcomed the PPS decision to prosecute and said it "shines a spotlight" on the government's controversial legacy act.