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Bloody Sunday: Derry awaits decision on 1972 killings

14 March 2019

A former British soldier faces charges over the 1972 Bloody Sunday killings, Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service said on Thursday.

In the last few minutes officials from the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) have made their long awaited announcement to the families of those shot dead and wounded on January 30, 1972 by the Parachute Regiment in Derry.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson confirmed the Ministry of Defence would support soldier F and pay the legal costs.

"And the Government will urgently reform the system for dealing with legacy issues".

The letter said a dedicated team has been set up looking at ways to provide appropriate legal protection to serving and former members of the armed forces "where they now face repeated investigations and potential prosecution following events that happened many years ago". "In these cases the evidential test is not met".

However the available evidence surrounding 18 other suspects - 16 paratroopers and two alleged Official IRA members - who were investigated for charges up to and including murder was insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction, prosecutors decided. Families of those killed during Bloody Sunday march through Bogside on March 14, 2019 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

"There has been a level of expectation around the prosecution decisions in light of the findings of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry", he said.

Following the Saville Inquiry report's publication, then-Prime Minister David Cameron apologised for the soldiers' actions in the House of Commons.

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Ex-paratroopers have claimed they opened fire after being fired upon first.

Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland, Stephen Herron said he was conscious relatives faced an "extremely hard day".

"There has been a level of expectation around the prosecution decisions in light of the findings of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry".

Reflecting on his meeting with the families, the director added: "I am mindful that it has been a long road for the families to reach this point and today will be another extremely hard day for many of them".

"However, much of the material which was available for consideration by the Inquiry is not admissible in criminal proceedings, due to strict rules of evidence that apply", he said.

Ciaran Shiels, the solicitor for several of the victims' families, said: "We are disappointed that not all of those responsible are to face trial. However, that does not mean that we do not have compassion for all those who are affected by our decisions".

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said it was important that no one said anything to prejudice the process following Thursday's decision, adding that his thoughts were with all of the families.

Linda Nash, the brother of William Nash, a 19-year-old killed on the day, was tearful when she emerged from the hotel.

Bloody Sunday: Derry awaits decision on 1972 killings