Relatives of 13 civilians killed in Londonderry in 1972 have vowed to fight on for justice after the prosecution service stood by its decision to pursue a case against just one former soldier.
Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) announced last year that one veteran, known as Soldier F, would face charges.
A further 15 civilians were wounded on January 30, 1972 when soldiers from the Parachute Regiment opened fire on civil rights demonstrators, in an incident which became known as Bloody Sunday.
Families of some of the victims requested a review of the PPS decision in March 2019.
On Tuesday, the PPS announced that decisions not to prosecute in relation to the actions of 15 soldiers on Bloody Sunday had been upheld.
Families expressed disappointment at the outcome, and said they will take a judicial review.
John Kelly, whose brother Michael was killed, said their campaign for justice will go on.
“We’re not giving up yet, we have now the next stage, the judicial review at the High Court,” he said.
“It’s been a long road, up to nearly 50 years, we’re all getting old, a lot of people are dying but as long as we’re able to walk, we’ll go after them and we certainly will not stop until we see justice for our loved ones.
“Every one of them should face the wrath of the law.”
He added: “Over the years we’ve had many kicks in the teeth, but I think most of us have still got full sets of teeth and we’re not giving up, we’re never giving up on it.”
Mickey McKinney’s brother Willie was also shot dead on Bloody Sunday.
Soldier F has been charged with his murder.
He said he is “bitterly disappointed” for the other families.
“I’m concerned that the passage of time is very important to us in this case. I think time is in favour of the soldiers,” he said.
Foyle MP Colum Eastwood (SDLP) paid tribute to the families as having shown “the most unshakeable dignity and integrity in moments of justice as well as moments of disappointment”.
“Today’s decision will not change that,” he said.
“I am pledged to do all I can to support these families who mean so much to Derry. We’ll continue to walk with them.”
— Social Democratic and Labour Party (@SDLPlive) September 29, 2020
However, East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell (DUP) questioned potential further costs.
“The issue now will be, is there now going to be a judicial review which is going to entail further cost – remember there’s already been almost £200 million spent on the public inquiry, the most expensive in legal history in the UK,” he told the BBC.
“I think more and more people will be saying how much further is this going to go on, because there are families today across Northern Ireland who are still grieving? There are families of two police officers who were murdered in the area where the Bloody Sunday events happened, just three days before. They have never received justice, never received a public inquiry and never received any independent review into the circumstances surrounding the murders of their loved ones.”
The reviews of the PPS decisions were undertaken by senior assistant director Marianne O’Kane, who was not previously involved in the cases.
She concluded that the Test for Prosecution is not met on evidential grounds to prosecute any of the 15 soldiers in connection with the specific deaths or injuries sustained on January 30, 1972.
“In March 2019, the PPS engaged extensively with the families of those killed and injured on Bloody Sunday to explain the reasons why the original decision-maker concluded that the available evidence did not meet the Test for Prosecution for all but one suspect reported,” Ms O’Kane said.
“Given the importance of these decisions to all affected by them, and the extensive public interest in the events of Bloody Sunday, the deep disappointment felt by many families at that time was wholly understandable.
“This was despite assurances received from the PPS that its decision-making had been conducted in an independent, fair and impartial manner.
“It was therefore also understandable that a number of the bereaved families and injured victims subsequently exercised their right to request a review of decisions relating to 15 of those suspects originally reported.
“The reviews process began substantively in November 2019, after receipt of all legal submissions, and involved applying the Test for Prosecution afresh to all available evidence submitted by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) from 2016-17.
“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.”
Ms O’Kane added: “I know that today’s outcome will cause further upset to those who have pursued a long and determined journey for justice over almost five decades.
“I can only offer reassurance to all of the families and victims of Bloody Sunday, and the wider community, that my decisions were conducted wholly independently and impartially, and in accordance with the Code for Prosecutors.”
Soldier F has been charged with the murder of James Wray and William McKinney.
He is also 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.
Ms O’Kane said there will be no change to those charges.
“The prosecution that commenced against him in 2019, which relates to two charges of murder and five charges of attempted murder, continues,” she said.