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Bloody Sunday Paras can't be arrested and taken to NI, judges rule

By Donna Deeney

Published 18/12/2015

A youth is arrested on Bloody Sunday
A youth is arrested on Bloody Sunday
William Nash's sister Kate

Former paratroopers involved in the Bloody Sunday massacre cannot be arrested and brought to Northern Ireland for police questioning, senior judges have ruled.

The judgment was made on condition the soldiers would attend interviews at police stations in England and Wales under caution and co-operate with the investigation.

Three judges "unhesitatingly concluded" at London's High Court that there were no reasonable grounds for the fiercely opposed move, which they said could result in a risk to the safety of the seven men.

The ex-soldiers have already stated they will answer "no comment" to all questions.

Their challenge against the PSNI was taken after one of their colleagues, known as Soldier J, was arrested and questioned last October.

The former Para, who was living in Antrim, was quizzed about three of the 14 Bloody Sunday deaths in Londonderry 43 years ago, including William Nash (19), and the wounding of his father Alexander.

The judges ruled: "If interviewed in Northern Ireland they would not be able to return to their homes during the interview period, but would have to be detained for their own safety in conditions of close custody.

"Even if so detained, there would be a risk to their safety."

William's sister Kate said the ruling would not deter the families in their pursuit for justice, but added it sent out a very particular message.

She said: "This is actually incredible if you sit and think about it, but it is something that we expected.

"Where else would you get suspects in a murder investigation going to court to get a judge to rule that they could only be questioned in a location of the suspects' choosing and at a time that suited them, and only when they chose to make themselves available?

"What adds insult to injury is that the MoD have said it will pay their costs because they have a duty of care to the soldiers.

"Where was their duty of care to the innocent people on that march who were mown down, and their families, who have fought for almost 44 years to get justice?"

John Kelly, whose brother Michael was the youngest victim to die, described the outcome as "annoying" but added that Lord Saville "set the precedent when he allowed the soldiers to give evidence in England during his inquiry".

"But, at the end of the day, this victory for the soldiers is shallow because the investigation will continue and they will still get the knock on the door," he said. "That's what they thought would never happen, but that day is fast approaching."

Mr Kelly added he looked forward to the day when Soldier F, who shot his brother dead, was brought in for questioning.

"It won't matter to me or my family where that interview takes place," he said.

However, Ulster Unionist MP Tom Elliott welcomed the High Court ruling and said that while no one was above the law, he thought the soldiers had suffered enough.

He said: "Many people believe that having suffered the ignominy of having a British Prime Minister state that their actions on Bloody Sunday were unjustified and unjustifiable, the Paras have suffered enough.

"Many people will also feel that it is punitive and disproportionate to pursue individual members of the Parachute Regiment in relation to events more than 40 years ago, given that we live in a time when there are literally hundreds of unsolved murders committed by terrorist groups."

Detective superintendent Jason Murphy, from the PSNI's Legacy Investigation Branch, said: "The investigation into the events of Bloody Sunday continues and we will factor the findings into our investigative strategy moving forward."

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