Derry awaits decision on 1972 killings — Bloody Sunday

The civil rights march in Derry on Bloody Sunday

The civil rights march in Derry on Bloody Sunday

Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Herron stated that 16 other former soldiers and two former Official IRA members will not face prosecution after available evidence was lacking to convict.

Nearly half a century since unarmed civilians were gunned down in Northern Ireland by British soldiers, one veteran will now be charged with murder.

Responding to the decision this afternoon, UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "We are indebted to those soldiers who served with courage and distinction to bring peace to Northern Ireland".

"The decision to prosecute just one ex-soldier does not change the fact that Bloody Sunday was a massacre of innocents", Sinn Fein's Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill said in a statement.

A Government spokesperson said: "The welfare of our personnel and veterans is of the utmost importance and we provide legal and pastoral support to any veteran who requires it". This includes funding all his legal costs and providing welfare support.

Mr Williamson said the United Kingdom Government would look at "new safeguards" to ensure defence force personnel "are not unfairly treated".

Britain's Ministry of Defense said it would help defend the ex-soldier who will now face prosecution, while working to reform the system for investigating allegations of past misdeeds by the military.

The man - known as Soldier F - will be charged with two counts of murder and four attempted murder, Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has announced.

"In these circumstances the evidential test for prosecution is not met".

A solicitor for victims' families, Ciaran Shiels, said relatives of those who died were "disappointed that not all those responsible are to face trial".

While welcoming the news for the six families directly impacted by the decision to prosecute Soldier F - declaring that a "victory" - the campaigners said they would keep fighting for the other dead and injured. The victims were all unarmed Catholics.

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Soldiers were sent into the Bogside on January 30.

The soldiers were members of a support company of the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment.

Relatives sought to right the wrongs of false claims that their loved ones had been armed. David Cameron, then prime minister, apologised for their "unjustified and unjustifiable" conduct.

But the results of the inquiry that concluded in 2010 could not be used in any prosecution, and Thursday's charges resulted from a separate police investigation into the incident. One has since died.

Police in the North opened their investigation into the killings after the 2010 Saville Report found that British troops opened fire on Bloody Sunday without issuing a warning.

The complex investigation files included 668 witness statements, numerous physical exhibits such as photographs, video and audio recordings, and a total of 125,000 pages of material.

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.

But the PPS decisions in respect of potential perjury charges will be announced at a later date.

Lord Widgery's 1972 inquiry stated the soldiers only fired after being fired upon.

She said: "I think of my brother every single day. We are here to take their place".

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