Manus Deery Inquest: Day 5

Eamon Sweeney covering the fifth day of the inquest into the British Army slaying of Manus Deery reports that:

Ex-RUC man says he would have changed his mind on soldier's prosecution

A former high-ranking RUC man stationed in Derry at the time of the killing of Manus Deery in 1972 has told Derry courthouse he would have recommended the prosecution of the soldier responsible for firing the shot that killed the teenager had he been aware of the contents of an Army Legal Services report before submitting police analysis of the situation to the Department of Public Prosecutions.

Giving evidence to the inquest was ex-Criminal Investigations Department Inspector David McNeill.

Mr McNeill was read the contents of a report he submitted on the killing in June, 1972. In that report of 44 years ago Mr McNeill stated that:

Reports from witnesses will say that Manus was unarmed and reports from Soldiers A and B will say that he was carrying a rifle in a trail position. I would suggest that on the strength of his statement that Soldier A will say that he was justified in firing. Therefore it will be for a higher authority to decide whether or not Soldier A can be prosecuted.

The court also heard that at the time of the killing of Manus Deery there was an order in force that meant that the police could not independently interview military personnel involved in shooting incidents and that statements from such personnel were taken by the military authorities and then passed onto the RUC.

Asked my Mr Gerry McAlinden, senior counsel for the Coroners Service, if he believed that the RUC investigation into Manus Deery's death was rendered ineffective by this policy and that the soldier's should have been interviewed as soon as possible by police after the killing, Mr McNeill replied: "Those were the guidelines we working under at the time."

Mr McAlinden also referred to a note contained within Ministry of Defence (MoD) documentation that was prepared by Army Legal Services that was then forwarded to the Royal Military Police (RMP) on June 21, 1972.

The MoD note said that whilst it was stated that the man who was shot was carrying a rifle, he was carrying it in a prone position and not preparing it for offensive use. Therefore it appeared that Soldier A's discharging of the round that killed Manus Deery appeared to be in breach of the British Army 'Yellow Card' guidelines on their rules for engagement.

It emerged that the RUC report into the incident was prepared by a Detective Constable Parks, a subordinate of Inspector McNeill and the main investigating officer in the Deery case, and was written up on June 22, 1972, the day after the MoD note was written.

Asked therefore if Mr Parks had received this note from the MoD before writing his own submission, Mr McNeill told Derry court: "He can't have, because the first time I saw this document was two weeks ago."

Mr McAlinden said: "So Parks was not informed by the MoD and when you prepared your report, you had not been informed?"

"Correct," said Mr McNeill.

The ex-RUC officer was also pressed on a line within his original report that statements from civilian witnesses to the killing "added nothing to the story."

Counsel for the Coroners Service, McAlinden put it to Mr McNeill that the soldier's evidence said that no one else was around the Bogside when the target was identified and subsequently shot. He said that witnesses have given evidence that a significant number of teenagers were in the district at the time and would have been visible to the soldiers at their outpost on the city's walls.

"Clearly these statements add something to the story because there were a number of people around and this influences the appropriateness of a shot being fired," said Mr McAlinden.

In response David McNeill said: "I'm sorry, I can't answer that."

Mr McAlinden also stated that it appeared that the RUC had not attempted to take statements from civilian witnesses at any juncture even after Operation Motorman ended the 'No Go' area situation in Derry on July 31, 1972.

Mr McNeill responded: "I cannot answer for Detective Constable Parks."

Senior Counsel for the Deery family, Fiona Doherty also questioned Mr McNeill on the nature and circumstances of the RUC investigation in 1972.

She asked if the departure from normal investigative procedures in regard to military personnel was a cause of concern for the former RUC officer.

"Yes, it was. Not just for me but for others as well. That was the formal policy," said Mr McNeill.

Mr McNeill said he had a vague memory in "this particular case" of speaking to a man from the military's Special Investigation Branch and directing him to send the statements from Soldiers A and B.

"I told him I wanted them on my table," he said.

The ex-RUC man said that it was Detective Constable Parks who led the police investigation into the killing of Manus Derry, because at that time he was heading up the RUC investigation into Bloody Sunday. 
I looked after that police investigation. I did not get statements from the soldiers. I went to the Widgery Tribunal everyday and the first time I saw statements from soldiers they were contained in booklets I received the next day. I therefore had to prepare 14 investigation files and 14 coroners files day to day. I was fully involved in that. There were bombs and bullets each day. It was a city in turmoil.
Returning to the situation regarding the 'Yellow Card' Fiona Doherty asked Mr McNeill if he had been aware of the Army Legal Services note to Royal Military Police that Soldier A ~ Private William Glasgow, had breached the rules of engagement would it have altered his opinion on a recommendation for a prosecution?

In response, the ex-RUC officer said:

They (Army Legal Services) were speaking with legal experience, I was speaking from practical experience. It influences it because I was speaking as a layman. Because they say legally, it was outside the 'Yellow Card', it would have changed my mind from what I said ~ I would have recommended a prosecution.

Mr Martin Wolfe, senior counsel for the MoD and PSNI asked Mr McNeill when he had first been asked to recall the Manus Deery case.

"I can't specifically date it, but it was at least five years ago by the Historical Enquiries Team," said Mr McNeill.

Mr Wolfe continued:

Normal investigative procedures were turned on their head in this era. There were other investigatory challenges faced by the police at this time. For example, civilian statements were handed to lawyers rather than witnesses coming to the police.

"That wasn't unusual," said Mr McNeill.

Mr Wolfe also pointed out that police were unable to enter areas such as the Bogside at the time to conduct forensic examinations at incident sites and also asked if there was any way that police could have forced their way in to conduct examinations.

The witness responded: "We went in sometimes with an Army escort, but that wasn't very often."

Returning again to the issue of if he had seen the Army Legal Services memo on the 'Yellow Card' rules, Mr Wolfe asked Mr McNeill: "Had you seen it, you would have recommended a prosecution?"

"Yes, I would," replied the former RUC man.

Asked by Mr Wolfe if the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had ever asked the RUC at the time to obtain further information from the soldiers or civilian witnesses, Mr McNeill said: "If the DPP had thought that necessary they would have sent the file back for it to be done."

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