RUC Not Remotely Interested

Eamon Sweeney on the RUC non-investigation of the Bloody Sunday massacre.

A RUC investigation in 1972 did not recommend the prosecution of any of the soldiers involved in killings on Bloody Sunday and their report on the matter was only submitted to then Director of Prosecutions after the publication of the now discredited Widgery Tribunal it has emerged.

Some of the relatives of those killed on the day are seeking the prosecution of soldiers who carried out the shootings. In 2010, the conclusions of the Saville Inquiry completely exonerated those killed and wounded from any suggestion of any wrong doing.

Yesterday was the 46th anniversary of Bloody Sunday when 13 civilians were shot dead. A fourteenth man died later from his injuries.

A letter sent last December from the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) to relatives of those killed and those wounded on January 30,1972 has revealed that old RUC archive files are being examined in advance of a decision on whether or not to prosecute the soldiers involved.

The RUC investigation at the time was headed up by a Detective Inspector McNeill.

Asked about how the RUC report on Bloody Sunday was formulated a spokesperson for the PSNI said:

Inspector McNeill was responsible for compiling reports for the then Director of Public Prosecutions using the material from the Widgery Inquiry. These reports were reflective of the findings from Widgery.

And, the recent letter from the a senior member of PPS, updating the Bloody Sunday relatives on the progress of the current case says:

I have obtained a number of old prosecution files from 1972.
The RUC submitted papers to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions following the publication of the report of the WidgeryTribunal. The RUC investigation at the time appears to have been based on material for the Widgery Inquiry and the findings of the Widgery Inquiry.
None of the files I have seen contain any recommendation by any officer (including Detective Inspector McNeill) for a prosecution of any soldier.

However, none of the soldiers involved were directly interviewed by the RUC at the time.

A PSNI statement confirming this to the Telegraph said: "The British soldiers were not interviewed by the police at the time of the incident. The military police recorded their statements and provided the evidence gathered from them for Widgery."

With regard to the current and ongoing consideration for prosecution by the PPS, the PSNI statement also said: "The soldiers involved were interviewed by police under caution by the PSNI investigation team."

However, the PPS letter also points out that the RUC file from 1972 will have no bearing on their ongoing consideration of whether the former British soldiers will be prosecuted for their roles on Bloody Sunday.

The letter states:

The opinion of a police officer as to whether a crime has or has not been committed is not admissible as evidence in a criminal trial. The recommendations made in 1972, are neither here nor there for present purposes.
The decision in this case is one for the PPS and will be based on evidence that is currently available and admissible under the rules of evidence that apply today in relation to criminal proceedings.

Last year the Telegraph revealed that prosecutions are being considered against 18 soldiers in relation to Bloody Sunday and also that for the first time legal action was also considered against republicans-specifically two former members of the Official IRA.

The Public Prosecution Service have also said they have now engaged the services of a senior Queen's Counsel to examine the cases against each of the soldiers as they near completion.

And, that whilst they are still aiming for a final decision on prosecutions by their previously hoped for deadline of spring this year, the PPS letter also says "the main point preventing something definite is the possibility of specific legal issues arising in each individual case against an accused soldier."

A spokesperson for the PPS told the Telegraph:

The Public Prosecution Service is continuing to make steady progress in this complex case. As we indicated [to the families] at the outset of our consideration of this case, the volume of material and complexity of legal issues involved continue to make it difficult to provide a definitive time frame for decision and we have endeavoured to keep the families updated on progress.
We remain hopeful that we will be moving towards taking final decisions in accordance with this time frame. A clearer indication of the exact timings of final decisions is likely to be known in coming months and we will continue to update the families regularly.

Eamon Sweeney is a Derry Journalist and has often focussed on what are called legacy matters.

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