Prosecutors have dropped charges against two former British soldiers accused of murder during the decades-long sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland.
Both cases involved shootings in 1972 in the town known as Londonderry for British trade unionists and Derry for Irish nationalists.
An army veteran, named Private B, has been charged with the murder of 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty, who was shot twice in the head in July of the same year. The case also concerned the injury of his cousin, Christopher.
The teenager was killed during an army operation to empty a housing estate of militants. An investigation in 2011 found that he posed no risk to the soldiers and was shot without warning.
The other veteran, identified only as Private F, faced charges related to the âBloody Sundayâ murders in January 1972. He was charged with two murders related to the deaths of William McKinney and James Wray.
Thirteen people were killed and 15 others injured when the British Army Parachute Regiment opened fire on civil rights protesters in a predominantly Catholic neighborhood in the city’s Bogside neighborhood.
A public inquiry said those shot were unarmed and posed no threat to the military.
Bloody Sunday was a pivotal moment in the Northern Ireland “Troubles”, the fury over the event prompted many to join the IRA terrorist group.
The 30-year conflict began in the 1960s when the Catholic minority community in Northern Ireland protested against discrimination and the British Army was deployed to quell the unrest.
The 1972 protests were against a law allowing indefinite detention without trial.
Earlier this year, the trial in Belfast of two other British soldiers accused of murdering an IRA member also collapsed after the court ruled the statements they made were inadmissible.
In a meeting with prosecutors on Friday, the families of the victims who have long sought justice were told that in light of the previous two cases, there was no longer a reasonable chance that either Private B or Private F be condemned either. It is believed that key evidence would again be declared inadmissible.
The families released a statement condemning what they called a damning indictment of the UK justice system. Des Doherty, lawyer for Daniel Hegarty’s family, lamented the decision to drop the charges.
âYou can get away with murdering a child if you’re in the British Army because the state will always protect you. The state is going to subvert the legal system and use it to their advantage, and they will. have done in the past And then the illegitimate will be legitimized by the PPS (Public Prosecution Service) and the courts today, “he told reporters.
However, in other circles there was also sympathy for the soldiers who faced years of investigation.
Former Army Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer called the affair tragic. “The life of another veteran has been ruined. Investigated, abandoned, investigated, abandoned, charged, abandoned. The shame of this government has been highlighted in another tragic case – for all parties,” he said. he declares. tweeted.
The rulings mean that further legal action over the events of the early 1970s in Northern Ireland is unlikely. The UK government intends to curtail historic prosecutions by imposing a time limit on offenses committed before the 1998 peace agreement known as the Good Friday Agreement.