Former British soldiers will not be prosecuted over Bloody Sunday perjury allegations

Families ‘disappointed but not fooled’ by prosecutor’s decision not to proceed to due ‘insufficient’ evidence

Fifteen former British soldiers will not be prosecuted in relation to allegations of perjury over evidence given to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.

The Northern Ireland Prosecution Service (PPS) announced on Friday that the available evidence was “insufficient” to provide a “reasonable prospect of conviction of any suspect considered”.

The Bloody Sunday families said they were “very disappointed at this PPS decision ... but certainly not fooled by it”.

Thirteen people died when members of the British army’s Parachute Regiment opened fire on anti-internment marchers in Derry’s Bogside on 30th January, 1972. A 14th person died later.


Investigations relating to “allegations of false evidence relating to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry” were linked to the ex-soldiers and one former alleged member of the Official IRA, prosecutors said.

Families learned of the PPS decision on Friday morning and in statement, their solicitor said they will “carefully consider the reasons we have received today and do not rule out the prospect of further legal action.”

In 2010, Lord Saville’s inquiry report heavily criticised some British soldiers who had knowingly put forward false accounts.

The inquiry was established in 1998 by British prime minister Tony Blair.

After the inquiry findings were delivered in June 2010, British prime minister David Cameron later apologised, saying the killings were “unjustified and unjustifiable”.

In 2019, the North’s PPS announced its decisions regarding 19 individuals – 17 former soldiers and two former members of the Official IRA – who were investigated by the police for a range of potential offences committed on Bloody Sunday, including murder, attempted murder and wounding.

The PPS concluded there was sufficient evidence to prosecute only one former member of the Parachute Regiment, known as Soldier F, for murder and attempted murder on Bloody Sunday.

He is charged with the murder of William McKinney and James Wray as well as five counts of attempted murder. The case is under way.

At the time, the PPS said the decisions announced in 2019 related only to allegations of criminal conduct on Bloody Sunday itself, and consideration would now be given to allegations of perjury in respect of those suspects reported by police.

On Friday, prosecutors confirmed that one of the soldiers reported on the file in relation to the perjury allegations was Soldier F but said that “today’s decisions do not impact on the decision to prosecute Soldier F” on the attempted murder charges.

They said the complexity and volume of the evidence had lengthened the “decision-making in this case”.

PPS senior public prosecutor John O’Neill acknowledged the outcome will be “another difficult day” for families.

But he said the standard of proof required for a criminal prosecution was high and that after “careful consideration, it has been concluded that the available evidence in this case is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction of any suspect for offences in relation to the giving of false evidence”.

“The decision making involved the consideration of a vast amount of material. Consideration of the allegations of false evidence presented particularly complex evidential and legal issues, all of which were thoroughly analysed by the prosecution team,” he said.

Mr O’Neill said he wished to make clear the PPS decision not to prosecute “in no way undermines the findings of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry that those killed or injured were not posing a threat to any of the soldiers”.

“We acknowledge that these prosecutorial decisions will be disappointing to the victims and families involved, and that this may be another difficult day for them,” he said.

“We have written to them to explain in detail the reasons for the decisions. We would like to provide assurance that these decisions were taken impartially, independently and only after the most thorough and careful consideration of all available evidence and the relevant legal issues.”

John Kelly, whose brother Michael was killed on Bloody Sunday, said the families “are disappointed and perplexed” by the PPS decision.

“We consider that today’s ruling by the PPS is an affront to the rule of law and a continuation of the injustice that was perpetuated on Bloody Sunday,” he said.

He said while the people of Derry cannot forget the events of Bloody Sunday, “the Parachute Regiment, who caused all of the deaths and injury on that day, apparently cannot recall it”.

The families’ solicitor, Ciaran Shiels of Madden & Finucane said it was “regrettable” the PPS decision was “communicated to us only today, some 14 years after the Inquiry’s unequivocal findings” but less than two weeks before the UK government’s controversial Legacy Act to deal with Troubles-era crimes is enacted.

Seanín Graham

Seanín Graham

Seanín Graham is Northern Correspondent of The Irish Times