The PSNI investigation into Bloody Sunday is mistaken. Try them for perjury

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Many people will say that if ever there was a suitable case for prosecution, it’s Bloody Sunday when paratroop soldiers shot 14 people  before the eyes of many of us around at time. But challenged on whether I approve  of the opening of a police inquiry into Bloody Sunday that will take four years , I’ve decided to come clean and say  I think it’s fundamentally mistaken.

How disillusioning is this development for the many who deceived themselves when they thought closure had been achieved on that inspirational day in Derry two and a half years ago.  I was among millions all over the world who felt confident that justice had been done albeit imperfectly and that the families had agreed; the men of Support Company 1 Para had been exposed as killers of the innocent.

But when the euphoria had subsided and the cameras had departed, other influences came into play. Demands for further action grew and finally prevailed.  In this situation, key questions should be answered, going beyond the current PSNI platitudes.

What kind of evidence is strong enough to justify prosecutions  40 to 45 years after the event?

Are we being asked to believe the crucial evidence rests with the people in Derry rather in the  thinning ranks of the long retired soldiers involved?

How would prosecutions meet the key test of serving the public interest?

The public interest is more than whataboutery. The complaint of ”one sided justice” is flawed.  In any case  for many nationalists, one sided justice is the security forces getting off lightly while thousands of paramilitaries served thousands of years in jail. Justice is done, or not, case by case. The wider public interest requires answers to further questions:

Is the promise of four years of Bloody Sunday police investigations likely to encourage confessions from former paramilitaries?

Or fearing that a new precedent has been set that they might be prosecuted, has any faint hope of confessions now been killed off?

Will the PSNI now reopen investigations into notorious cases where the files are clearly inadequate, as the clear up by the Historic Enquiries Team makes crystal clear?  The IRA and the UDA tended not to keep  case files  and the evidential trails have long gone cold .

In the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the governments fell between the two stools of justice and reconciliation. They baulked at the idea of a comprehensive amnesty advocated privately by some within government for obvious political reasons and  for possible legal challenges under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to life. They substituted a release scheme for prisoners after they’d served just two years for crimes committed before that date. The concession applied to any others convicted for offences so committed but put on  trial later.  Very few were ever arrested .Despite vehement and persistent denials, this was was an amnesty in all but name.

Unlike no other, the PSNI investigation into Bloody Sunday undermines that position.  It substitutes hope for some victims, fear for the unapprehended guilty and a climate of uncertainty for all.

Would not a better option be the one obligingly provided by  the solicitors Madden and Finuncane, of evidence of alleged perjury during the Saville hearings?  It falls outside the  GFA rubric and could  put the former soldiers in the dock much earlier  than four years hence.

Reconciliation or justice? Governments and communities have never been able to decide.  Reopening Bloody Sunday increases the likelihood that we’ll not get enough of either.

 

 

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  • http://www.banuanlae.org/ Ulick

    “What kind of evidence is strong enough to justify prosecutions 40 to 45 years after the event?”

    The precedent was set with Gerry McGeough. Reap what you sow.

  • BluesJazz

    Looking forward to seeing Martin McGuinness being prosecuted for having a machine gun that day. Unfortunately he can only serve 2 years in jail, but we’ll just have to live with that. I’m sure the Old Bailey bomber will fil his shoes adequatley .

  • foyle observer

    ‘for having a machine gun that day’

    along with the hundreds of loyalist scumbags who ‘had a machine that day’?

  • foyle observer

    ‘machine gun’

  • http://www.banuanlae.org/ Ulick

    @BluesJazz
    Prepare to be disappointed then.

  • BluesJazz

    If there’s a trial (very unlikely) McGuinness will have to face court proceedings- he only left the IRA in 1974- to pursue his career as a salmon fisherman- this is all for the optics.

    There’s no more chance of a soldier facing trial than Ian Paisley for inciting trouble. It’s a way of trying to cover the past. Gerry Adams could be put on trial for Bloody Friday and La Mon. But he wont.

    So it goes….

  • David Crookes

    Prophecy: in 2016 no aggrieved person will be any closer to satisfaction, the number of ‘enquiries’ will have snowballed, only the lawyers will be better off, some of the young people who have been poisoned with the toxic waste of the past.will want to engage in violence, aggrieved persons whose losses haven’t been favoured with ‘enquiries’ will be embittered by what they will see as arbitrary justice, and everyone else will be compelled to read Last Generation’s News Today for the rest of their lives.

  • galloglaigh

    BJ

    There’s no more chance of a soldier facing trial than Ian Paisley for inciting trouble

    Refer to Ulick at 12.00am.

    There is no chance of a senior soldier facing trial. Probably for the same reason that McGuinness won’t either.

    But soldiers will be in the dock; they deserve their day in the dock, as much as McGuinness does.

  • Sp12

    “the men of Support Company 1 Para had been exposed as killers of the innocent.”

    Am I living next door to one of them? Is there any way for me to find out?

  • BarneyT

    Surely perjury can piggyback the investigation? Conversely perjury suggests misdirection and withholding information or lying? Why lie ? To cover the crime? Ipso facto . Surely prosecution is a worthy way to
    Proceed even if victory is not assured?

  • Brian Walker

    Sp12, do you feel threatened by not knowing and fear that the elderly neighbour you hardly know might leap up and shoot you?

  • BarneyT

    Are we implying that the maturing process lessens the crime Brian? Would jimmy savile, had he been alive been offered the same forgiveness?

  • BarneyT

    Brian your analysis is wrong or ill informed regarding the nationalists view of one sided justice. The Bloody Sunday incident is assessed through the act alone and not against IRa activity or incarceration. There are too many that excuse state crimes through paramilitary actions and the two are unconnected. The paramilitary and sectarian killings should be met with anger but should not be gathered in the balance crimes committed by the state and her soldiers.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Brian
    Ulick hit the nail on the head: Gerry McGeough.

    The fault lies with the British government’s decision to prosecute him and seek his incarceration for something occurring before the GFA. Look what that has done in terms of opening up a legitimate campaign front for anti-GFA republicans, as well as putting nationalist/ republican reps in a position where they have to support his release and unionist reps in the position where they need to jump to the defence of Sammy Brush, opening wounds all round.

    With the McGeough precedent in place, then it is to be expected that British soldiers/ RUC/UDR personnel will also be prosecuted and sent to prison for pre-GFA involvement in killings.

  • iluvni

    Gillespie will be identifying and prosecuting the rioters too, wont she?

  • foyle observer

    iluvni,

    That’s got to be the most ridiculous and insulting piece of ‘whataboutery’ i have ever read.

    Are you seriously equating the cold blooded murder of 14 innocent ‘British’ civilians by the Parachute regiment with the riotous behaviour of a number of people that day?

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “the British government’s decision to prosecute him and seek his incarceration for something occurring before the GFA”

    Chris, are you privy to London and/or Dublin machinations? One or both may just as easily be acting, in their perceptions, in protection of the 1998 Agreement and the institutions that flowed from it; they’ll also sacrifice the greater good of decent NI folks of all creeds in order to protect major UK and Ireland interests.

    I’d be surprised if HET would or would be permitted to act against those with loyalist and republican paramilitary connections who are pro-Agreement; these ‘good’ folks are likely to have ‘immunity from prosecution’ certificates whereas members of ‘micro groups’ won’t.

  • David Crookes

    Zeus sentenced Prometheus to eternal torment for his transgression. The immortal Titan was bound to a rock, where each day an eagle, the emblem of Zeus, was sent to feed on his liver, only to have it grow back to be eaten again the next day. This went on every day for ever and ever. It never stopped. Ever.

  • Sp12

    “Sp12, do you feel threatened by not knowing and fear that the elderly neighbour you hardly know might leap up and shoot you?”

    Elderly or not, “the men of Support Company 1 Para had been exposed as killers of the innocent” is simply not true. If they had done something really bad, like cheating on a TV quiz show I could barely turn on the TV or read a newspaper without knowing who they were and see them get kicked out of the army. As it stands they are still protected from even having to face the possibility of explaining to unwitting friends and family how they came to shoot teenagers and wounded old men in the back, let alone to stand in a court of law and answer.

  • Brian Walker

    Barney T, Surely cases are obviously “connected” in the public mind after 30 years of political violence even if a symmetrical balance sheet cannot or should not be drawn up?
    Chris Donnelly, I criticised the arrest and trial of McGeough long ago while expressing great sympathy with Sammy Brush.

    http://sluggerotoole.com/2012/05/24/the-mcgeough-case-raises-worrying-questions-about-the-peace-process-the-sdlp-are-right-to-raise-them/

    All the more reason why we urgently need an explanation of the public interest from the operationally independent PSNI. If the McGeough trial was wrong so is the BS investigation. It imposes a burden on the police which in my opinion is beyond their range and competence. It compounds the problem and throws dealing with the past into an even worse muddle.

    Nothing comprehensive can be done about the past without the political agreement of the local parties who pay lip service to justice, mainly for their own side but have every reason to let sleeping dogs lie. In the meantime, justice over the Troubles will be a desultory lottery.

    My only slight consolation is that passions are slowly fading and there seems to be no public appetite to elevate the past into a grade one issue between the communities, in spite of a residue of deep bitterness and helplessness.

    A formal amnesty would have caused as tremendous row but would have lanced a boil rather than leaving this long term fester.

  • sonofstrongbow

    Much of the commentary on this subject ably demonstrates the impossibility of any of the ‘Bloody Sunday’ soldiers getting a fair trial. So much prejudicial tittle tattle is in the public domain that any judge or jury would be hard pressed to convince anyone that they had not been exposed to it.

    A Show Trial with acquittals at the end will serve no one.

    The judicial system will go through the motions on it. It’s too much of a political hot potato not to. Although someone should ask the PSNI where, given that the Saville material cannot be used in criminal prosecutions, has the evidence come from on which to base its new investigation?

    ‘Reap what you sow.’ As someone might have sad.

  • iluvni

    Foyle Observer…..I’m not equating anything.
    I’m just suggesting that investigation with view to prosecution should apply to all who may have broken the law on that fateful day.
    Why should you have issue with that?

  • BarneyT

    Brian I prefer a case by case approach and then look for consistency in cases that are on the same level. From a state perspective they must separate themselves from terrorist activity and operate as a state should but I frequently hear semi justification for Bloody Sunday and finucane couched as “we’ll look at the crimes the IRa committed”.

    I take your point in many cases but it would be interesting to see if those that called for the investigation are connected with those that were killed. If not then I can see why u suggest this may be put to bed, especially if the families have closure

  • Roy Walsh

    Brian, I think you hint at the major problem for, in the main, the British and in part the Irish governments. If, after an unbiased, police investigation into the shootings in 1972, aged soldiers were charged and perhaps convicted of murder, would they fall to be released from prison after two years, in line with the 1998 Sentences Act? If so, they would fall to be classified as terrorists, neither government would permit of their forces to be classified as such especially since S. 13 of the Act classifies terrorism as ‘any use of violence for the purpose of putting the public or any section of the public in fear.’ and Sch. 3, 2-(1) makes clear the application of the Act is to those convicted of terrorist offences.
    I would think if this came to pass these soldiers could not, under the Act, return to even an army social event nor attend commemorations since they could not become involved with terrorism, S. 3 (5)(a), their prosecution, and possible conviction being tantamount to an admission that the British state was involved in terrorism against it’s own subjects.
    Would we see groveling David again stand at the dispatch box apologizing for the actions of state forces?

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “we urgently need an explanation of the public interest from the operationally independent PSNI”

    Brian, the PSNI is no more operationally independent than the RUC was; these are public service agencies directed by government or governments. There would have been no point in SDLP politicians contacting the DFA in Dublin on policing matters if the police were operationally independent or British and Irish civil servants convening meetings at which senior police officers were present in response to such SDLP requests. As an experienced journalist with a long time involvement in NI affairs, I’m surprised that you appear to be unfamiliar with such arrangements.

  • sherdy

    The speech by David Cameron was a special day for the Derry families, but I have yet to hear one admission of guilt from anyone in the british army including their leader that day Mike Jackson for the murder of innocent people.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Brian
    I agree with everything you’ve said in your response.

  • forthman

    There has to be some kind of amnesty in the future. Unfortunately it will lead to the crazed, racist murderers in the British army, who carried out the Ballymurphy and bloody sunday mass murders, not spending a day in prison. I also find the constant description of these callous murderers as some kind of little dottery old folk highly suspect. Why can’t we have a fully public process of were, if a former combatant comes ‘clean’ about their involvement, they will not be prosecuted? Who is against this approach and why? From a personal experience of both father and brother injured in a unionist bombing, and being an eye witness to the unionist murder of a 4 year old in our street, which no one has ever been held to account for either action. I personally bear no grudge, and do not wish the culprits to go to jail. I do however expect everyone to give evidence to a ‘tribunal’. So lets have it, is the British state mature enough?

  • BluesJazz

    There will be no prosecutions.
    If so, Martin McGuinness would go to jail for the murder of Joanne Mathers.

    Can’t have it both ways.

    This is all for the optics.

  • forthman

    I personally do not want anyone to go to jail. I just want the truth. An acceptance of how the conflict was conducted. Why do you always point the finger at republicans, when in fact. the British state is the biggest obstacle to the truth.

  • galloglaigh

    BJ

    If the evidence is there, then why not? Go for it.

    Without getting into whataboutrey (as you clearly do in almost every post), many more squadies could face the courts in the future. Just the same way as may republican and loyalist ‘combatants’ are now under scrutiny. Maybe you could organise protests inside their barracks? At least that way no one would be inconvenienced, and indeed the decent people of Norn Iron will show as little interest in those protests, as the do the loyalist protests. Everyone’s a winner then.

  • SK

    I wonder if someone was hauled before the courts for La Mon in the morning, would this unionist hand-wringing over time elapsed or the possibility of a fair trial be quite so vocal?

    If there were doors kicked down on Monday by officers investigating the Enniskillen bombing, would the cries of “they’re too old now!” be quite so forthcoming?

    It is becoming more and more apparent that, like democracy, the rule of law is something that many unionists support as a matter of convenience rather than principle.

  • Harry Flashman

    “the crazed, racist murderers in the British army, who carried out the Ballymurphy and bloody sunday mass murders”

    This is somewhat off the topic but one of those crazed murderers was in my youth always thought to be Costas Georgiou, “Colonel Callan” of the Angolan mercenary fame. I have read elsewhere that it is one of Derry’s urban myths and Georgiou was not in Derry that day, although Wikipedia (not the most reliable of sources) claims he was there and fired 26 shots.

    Did Saville shed any light on that claim? It would certainly have a bearing on the sort of men in the Parachute Regiment at the time if that psycho was one of their corporals.

  • sonofstrongbow

    I must have missed the public inquiries into La Mon and the Enniskillen Poppy Day bombings. That’d be the ones where identifiable individuals were publicly acknowledged to have been involved in killing people.

    I do wish sometimes, forlornly I know, that nationalists would ditch the hyperbole and avoid the knee jerk responses. Perhaps the concept of fair jurisprudence is simply anathema to them. Maybe human rights law being applicable to everyone passed them by?

    Or perhaps they just miss old style nationalist ‘justice’; you know the cold-bath investigation and oneway trip to a bin bag on the border sentence. ;)

  • galloglaigh

    Harry

    Only Private H is recorded as firing anywhere near 26 bullets. He fired 22. Lance Corporal F is recorded as firing 13. The report does not however rule out the use of other bullets which weren’t issued, nor is there an independent account of how many bullets were fired. But it’s an interesting question. If he was there, he most certainly wasn’t there for the Saville Inquiry.

    SOS

    There were inquires made into the bombings you mention. The RUC conducted them. But you failed to address SK’s point:

    If someone was charged with those bombings, would you and your ilk have concern for the time elapsed; the possibility of a fair trial; or indeed the age of those charged?

    As SK rightly points out, it is becoming more and more apparent that, like democracy, the rule of law is something that many unionists support as a matter of convenience rather than principle.

  • galloglaigh
  • Submariner

    Brian the PSNI are not reopening the Bloody Sunday enquiry, they are conducting a murder investigation as they are duty bound to do. It matters little that over forty years have past, there is no statute of limitations for murder. As for evidence I would imagine that forensic evidence will play a major part in identifying who was murdered by which gun and who was issued a particular gun. The typical Unionist posters reaction on this thread has been a mixture of whataboutery and incorrectly labelling it another public enquiry which it is not, it is a MURDER investigation. Im sure that our Unionists supporters will as they are all supporters of law and order and democracy fully support this PSNI investigation.

  • Roy Walsh

    A good point submariner which reminded me of the programme I watched on Wednesday night concerning the nexus between some six county Protestants with similar nexus amongst some Irish Catholics. The Unionist posters here would do well to remember their Israeli friends do not forget those who they claim were responsible for murder in WW 2 German death camps, why should it be different for British forces actions against innocent people; or, to quote their former Taoiseach, ‘a crime is a crime is a crime’ and must be treated as such.
    Nollaig sona duit gach duine

  • anne warren

    Noticed that report myself Galloglaigh.
    Was ready to cite it here and on other threads.
    It is indeed interesting
    Thought-provoking.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    galloglaigh,

    I agree – it’s very interesting. It will give those calling for an inquiry, such as Milliband, a powerful argument if it can be determined that it isn’t a mere spoof.

  • BluesJazz
  • BluesJazz

    The above isn’t ‘whataboutery’. It’s what soldiers under attack do. And these soldiers had seen what our DFM and his colleagues had done.
    Jim Molyneaux was present at the liberation of Belsen. He knew what the IRA were about, and he didn’t want what he seen happening again.

  • galloglaigh

    BJ

    Straw clutching comment. You’re hurting and it’s visible. Maybe you’re a squadie waiting on a knock at the door? Either way, soldiers are going to be in the dock. It’ll set a precedent for further legal cases. And rightly so. The times they are a changing.

  • Brian Walker

    galloglaigh, aubmariner

    My point is about the wider pulbic interest not just the relatives. There is always a case for individual justice.
    The police are not compelled to open investigations lasting four years. I have suggested perjury as an alternative although I give my own preference for no further action. I admit this is undermined if there are going to be piecemeal prosecutions which I’ve already said I think is a bad mistake.

  • galloglaigh

    But Brian, in order for no further action to succeed without being seen as one-sided, it has to be a case of all or none. It can’t be a half hearted process. With Martin Corey’s case coming to the fore, it shows the levels to which British Viceroy’s are going to catch and contain other former combatants. It has to be an open-ended process of immunity from prosecution.

    I don’t agree with it in your terms as it’s too narrow in its scope. Many former combatants are restricted in job opportunities. Some are hounded when given high profile administrative posts. To exclude people from the judicial process, further isolates those with previous convictions, which still exist on record.

    In order for the soldiers to be given a by-ball, it has to be extended to every single conviction dating back to 1966 when loyalists started the conflict.

    Any other way, and it’s a further cover-up. and a slap in the face to those who have campaigned for over 40 years.

  • Submariner

    “I have suggested perjury as an alternative although I give my own preference for no further action. ”

    Brian we are talking about murder here. What is the point in prosecuting for perjury? these guys cold bloodedly committed murder and at least some of them committed multiple murders. The PSNI have to investigate it but I cant see it lasting four years.

  • BluesJazz

    So the ‘murder’ of unarmed people at Dachau is simply glossed over?
    The context is the same as in L/Derry.

    Eisenhower quashed the prosecutions of his soldiers.

    If anyone thinks we’re going to see Mike Jackson, Frank Kitson or Derek Wilford in open court, they’re living in the dreamworld that should have seen those US soldiers in court.

    Aint gonna happen baby.

  • sonofstrongbow

    galloglaigh,

    You are, understandably, being purposefully obtuse. There is, as you know, a vast difference between police making enquiries into crimes and a public inquiry.

    In one case the police are gathering evidence to place before a court. If the evidence test is met charges are preferred and the individual(s) are put to trial. Public reporting of the evidence in the case is severely restricted to ensure that the legal proceedings are not prejudiced.

    As a result of the Bloody Sunday case, a Public Inquiry should you have forgotten, much, if not all, the evidence is already in the public domain. Indeed many posters on this very site frequently refer to it.

    The first piece of evidence established in a murder case is that there was a murder and the identity of the victim. It would be a simple matter for anyone to correlate from the victim to the person in the dock via Saville’s findings and identify them as Soldier X,Y or Z.

    You obviously believe that those sitting in judgement in such a scenario could simply put the Saville findings out of their mind and confine themselves only to the evidence presented to them.

    No, didn’t think so. You and “your ilk” imagine that a future murder case hearing is there to rubber stamp your verdict of murder.

    Of course perhaps you don’t believe the soldiers murdered. My position is that I don’t know if proof of murder beyond a reasonable doubt could be established. I also believe that having had a public inquiry into the matter the possibility of a fair trial into the matter has been compromised.

  • galloglaigh

    It is indeed going to happen, just you wait and see BJ. The bad guys are going before a judge. It’s like a wheel barrow, and how heavy it must be for 1 Para of January 1972 :) :) :)

  • BluesJazz

    Of course they are gallo
    And it will also be sad to see those US Navy SEALS in court for extra-judicial killing of an innocent Muslim.

    And all those poor Afghan ‘wedding parties’.

    Insert smiley face.

  • BluesJazz

    The forensics case is lost because the MoD accidently destroyed the guns involved, which is unfortunate.
    But we’ll have the witness testimony of the DFM to rely on, that’ll rattle the establishment cage. :)

  • galloglaigh

    No need for the smiley face. In 40 years time, more retired squadies from the UK and US might be before the International Courts for all the war crimes committed worldwide the last few decades. That is if the other countries of the world get their act together, and stand up to these bullies. Like I say, the times they are a changing.

  • BluesJazz

    It’s ‘squaddies’ , but in any case Wilford, Jackson or Kitson, and the officer class in general would not regard themselves as such. Any more than the drone operators at Langley, Virginia.

    But the main point is, the squaddies in question here, were no different to the ones who committed ‘murder’ at Dachau.

    The PSNI ‘Trevors’ haven’t the capability to solve burglaries. They’re civil servants on a mission to promotion. The MoD and MI5 have the advantage of an Oxbridge education.

    I genuinely feel sorry for any Derry family who are naive enough to think they’re going to see justice prevail here.
    That’s not how the system works. It doesn’t/didn’t work for non-nationalists either.
    Princess Anne didn’t even get a fine for travelling at over 100mph, when pulled over. How simple do i need to analogise this?

  • Mc Slaggart

    “BluesJazz (profile) 24 December 2012 at 12:26 am
    The forensics case is lost because the MoD accidently destroyed the guns involved, which is unfortunate.”

    I think that will be another court case.

  • galloglaigh

    McSlaggart

    And rightly so. Destroying evidence in a murder case, and perverting the course of justice.

  • Reader

    galloglaigh: And rightly so. Destroying evidence in a murder case, and perverting the course of justice.
    There was no murder case open when the weapons were destroyed. And there was no challenge then, or now, to the obvious point that the British Army fired all for the fatal shots.

  • accordionstu

    14 innocent people died that day and it has cost millions of pounds to try to discover the truth and now there will be prosecutions. When will there be investigtions into the thousands of innocent people murdered by IRA on both sides?

  • galloglaigh

    Acordianstu

    Given that this is one of the first times soldiers have actually faced murder, I think we should concentrate on this case, and not the what ifs. Given that tens of thousands of former IRA combatants have been convicted, i think your argument is slighty misguided.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Reader

    “Two of the remaining five rifles were destroyed three months after Saville specifically decreed they should be kept safely for his tribunal.”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/jun/13/bloody-sunday-inquiry-report

  • Neil