Approach to legacy probes not fair or proportionate, says DUP MLA
Just over £4.3m of taxpayers’ money was spent on the Ballymurphy inquest, it can be revealed.
The long-running inquest into the deaths of 10 people shot dead by the British Army in west Belfast in 1971 found that the victims were all “entirely innocent of any wrongdoing on the day in question”. Figures provided by Stormont’s Department of Justice show that £2.78m was spent on NI Courts and Tribunal Services costs for the inquest, which ran from November 2018 to May 2021.
The majority of this figure — £2.49m — went towards counsel fees and legal costs, while a total of £1.59m was spent by the Legal Services Agency, which administers publicly-funded legal aid here, during the inquest.
Meanwhile, figures also show that just over £41,000 was spent on court fees for three legacy cases against British soldiers F, A and C.
Soldier F is the moniker given to a former Parachute Regiment member who was charged with two murders and five attempted murders allegedly committed on Bloody Sunday. Soldiers A and C were charged with the murder of Official IRA man Joe McCann, who was shot dead in disputed circumstances in Belfast in April 1972.
In the case of Soldiers A and C, their trial collapsed at Belfast Crown Court after the Public Prosecution Service confirmed it would not appeal against a judge’s decision to exclude statements the ex-soldiers gave to the Historical Inquiries Team about the shooting. Court proceedings in that case cost £11,938.
The judicial decision in that case resulted in the charges against Soldier F — who was charged with the murders of William McKinney and James Wray, plus five counts of attempted murder on Bloody Sunday — being dropped last year. Court proceedings in Solider F’s case amounted to £15,017.
Denis Hutchings (80) died while on trial last year for the attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham, who was shot in the back as he ran from an Army patrol near Benburb, County Tyrone, in 1974. Court proceedings in that case amounted to £14,769.
It is important to note that, in the cases of Denis Hutchings and soldiers F, A and C, these totals do not include legal team costs, so the true figure of how much these cases costs will be higher.
DUP MLA Mervyn Storey, chair of Stormont’s Justice Committee, said 90% of deaths during the Troubles were at the hands of terrorists, but the balance and cost of recent investigative activity has been “firmly directed toward the actions of the state”.
“All wrongdoing should be investigated. Every family deserves answers. However, terrorists must be held accountable. The approach to legacy inquests has not been fair or proportionate. Some veterans have been dragged through the courts despite already being subject to multiple investigations in the past,” he said.