Preparations for trial of Bloody Sunday accused ‘moving promptly’

By Michael McHugh, PA

Preparations for the trial of a former serviceman accused of two murders on Bloody Sunday are moving promptly, a judge said.

Soldier F’s legal team indicated it wishes to hear oral evidence from 25 witnesses, and public legal proceedings producing the evidence to send him to trial could take up to a month.

The former paratrooper also faces five attempted murder charges in relation to the shootings in Londonderry on January 30 1972.

Liam Wray, centre, with his sister Margaret Wray speaking with their solicitor Kevin Casey before the hearing (Liam McBurney/PA)

His case was mentioned before a district judge in Derry Magistrates’ Court, but the veteran was not present for the short hearing on Wednesday morning.

District Judge Peter Magill said: “It seems that the parties are in broad agreement and it seems to me at least initially that things are moving with due dispatch considering how complicated the matter is.”

The accused’s barrister Mark Mulholland QC is to challenge any decision to send his client for trial.

He indicated that he expected the committal hearing to take three or four weeks and added notices of objection to hearsay would take two or three days.

The decision to prosecute was announced by the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service (PPS) in March.

Bloody Sunday became one of the most notorious incidents of the Northern Ireland Troubles when members of the Parachute Regiment opened fire on a crowd of civil rights demonstrators, killing 13.

Soldier F is accused of murdering James Wray and William McKinney.

He also stands accused of the attempted murders of Patrick O’Donnell, Joseph Friel, Joe Mahon and Michael Quinn. He faces a seventh supporting charge of the attempted murder of a person or persons unknown on the day.

After the case, solicitor for the McKinney family and four wounded victims Ciaran Shiels said: “There are 25 witnesses that Soldier F’s legal team have indicated that they wish to hear oral evidence from.

“We know that all those witnesses are civilian witnesses.”

Solicitor Ciaran Shields speaking with media after the Soldier F mention hearing (Liam McBurney/PA)

He said some of the written evidence on which oral cross-examination would be based had been taken some time ago.

Prosecutors would have to contact some witnesses to establish whether they were willing to attend voluntarily or consider forcing them to attend.

Mr Shiels said hearsay applications concerned the “accounts of the colleagues of Soldier F within the anti-tank platoon who put Soldier F within the confines of Glenfada Park North where all these shootings occurred.”

He said the PPS also intended to call some evidence in respect of the shootings on a rubble barricade which nobody is currently charged with to give proper context to the events and the activities of the anti-tank platoon.

He intends to challenge the anonymity order granted to the soldier.

“The position of the families is that there is a significant departure from the principles of open justice, that this defendant is being treated more favourably than other people charged with homicide and indeed murder.”

The case was adjourned until January 17.