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Access to Bloody Sunday and Lyra hearings will have to be restricted, announces judge

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Paul McIntyre

Paul McIntyre

Christopher Gillen

Christopher Gillen

Lyra McKee

Lyra McKee

Paul McIntyre

Media and public access to court hearings in relation to Bloody Sunday and the murder of Lyra McKee will be restricted in order to comply with the Government's Covid-19 regulations, a District Judge said on Wednesday.

The rules state that only 10 people, including a judge, can attend court hearings.

District Judge Ted Magill made the announcement at the Magistrates' Court in Londonderry when the cases of 'Soldier F', Paul McIntyre and Christopher Gillen were mentioned.

Soldier F, who is aged in his 70s, is the only ex-paratrooper to have been charged in relation to the killings of 13 civilians by members of the Parachute Regiment in the Bogside area of Derry on January 30, 1972.

He is charged with murdering James Wray (22) and William McKinney (27) and with attempting to murder Joe Mahon, Michael Quinn, Patrick O'Donnell, Joseph Friel and a number of persons unknown.

His case has been listed for hearing in Bishop Street courthouse on July 16.

Paul McIntyre (52), from Kinnego Park, is in custody charged with the murder of journalist Ms McKee, who was shot dead during disturbances in the Creggan area of the city on the evening of April 18 last year.

The defendant is also charged with possessing a handgun with intent, belonging or professing to belong to the IRA, riotous assembly, possessing and throwing a petrol bomb at police officers and with the arson of a tipper truck, also on April 18 of last year.

Christopher Gillen (39), from Balbane Pass in the Creggan, is charged with riotous assembly, possessing and throwing a petrol bomb at police officers and with hijacking and setting fire to a tipper truck, also on April 18 of last year.

When the McIntyre-Gillen case was mentioned in court yesterday, a prosecution barrister said five witnesses would be required for a mixed committal hearing which is scheduled to take place next month.

He said that four of the witnesses were police officers, all of them based in Northern Ireland, who would be giving their evidence to the court remotely. The fifth witness, who will be giving CCTV footage evidence, might need to be in court when giving his evidence.

The barrister said the CCTV evidence given by the expert witness was to be challenged by defence barristers.

The District Judge said rules were in place in relation to social distancing in courtrooms.

"The rules at the moment state no more than 10 people, including the judge, can be in court. The difficulty in this case will be accommodating the number of people who wish to view the proceedings, similarly in the Soldier F case, which is listed for mid-July," he added.

Mr Magill said it would not be feasible to allow large numbers of people to view the proceedings in both cases remotely, simply because the court would have limited or no control over such viewers.

He said there was a considerable public and media interest in both cases, but he said numbers in terms of access to the proceedings either in the court or remotely "will have to be restricted".

The District Judge said the court had "no intention of forbidding such people from viewing the proceedings" but, under current Government guidelines, the court could only accommodate 10 people at any one time.

The issue of remote viewing will also have to be addressed, he stressed.

"It will be very difficult to accommodate any large number of media or members of the public to view this," the judge said.

"It is going to be very difficult.

Both murder cases were then adjourned for review - the McIntyre-Gillen case until June 4 and the Soldier F case until July 16.

Belfast Telegraph