Daniel Hegarty shooting: 'Soldier B' will not be charged over death of Derry teen during Operation Motorman in 1972
A member of the British Army, known as 'Soldier B', will not be charged in relation to the fatal shooting of teenager Daniel Hegarty in Londonderry during Operation Motorman in July 1972.
The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) confirmed on Tuesday that, following review of evidence, a decision has been taken not to prosecute the soldier in relation to the death.
At approximately 4.15am on 31st July 1972, 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty was shot and killed by a member of an Army patrol on duty in the Creggan area of Derry as the operation began.
Operation Motorman was aimed at saturating working-class nationalist areas with troops, in particular the so-called 'no go' areas including Creggan, the Bogside and the Brandywell, which had collectively become known as 'Free Derry'.
Daniel, who was working as a labourer when he died, was shot twice in the head by a soldier near his home in Swilly Gardens in the Creggan area.
His 16-year-old cousin, Christopher, who was shot in the head by the same soldier, survived.
Decisions not to prosecute were previously taken in 1973 and again in 2008 following a review of the case by the PSNI Historical Enquiries Team.
The file was subsequently referred back to the Director of Public Prosecutions by the Coroner following the conclusion of an inquest in December 2011.
Assistant Director of Central Casework Michael Agnew said: “We have given careful consideration to all of the available evidence and information, including the findings of the jury at the inquest.
“We have received further expert evidence, both from the expert who had been instructed by the coroner and also a second independent expert. The conclusions of both experts are such that they are not able to state that the ballistics evidence is inconsistent with the account provided by Soldier B of the circumstances in which he fired.
“We have applied the Test for Prosecution afresh in light of the evidence currently available. The standard of proof that the prosecution must reach in a criminal trial is the high one of beyond reasonable doubt.
"Our assessment remains that there is no reasonable prospect of proving to the criminal standard that Soldier B did not act in self-defence having formed a mistaken but honest belief that he was under imminent attack. In these circumstances there is no reasonable prospect of a conviction and the Test for Prosecution is not met.”
Mr Agnew added: “It is clear that in this tragic case there was no objective justification for the shots fired by Soldier B that morning. Neither Daniel nor his cousins posed any threat to Soldier B or his colleagues. However, in a criminal trial the court will be required to assess the conduct of Soldier B in the context of the circumstances as he believed, or may have believed, them to be.”
Mr Agnew confirmed that arrangements had been made to keep the family informed of progress in relation to the case and the Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory QC, has met with them to explain the outcome of the review.
He added: “I understand how disappointing this decision will be for the families involved, particularly in light of the findings returned by the Inquest Jury. We have sought to provide them with detailed reasons for our decision and to assure them that the decision was taken only after a most careful consideration of all of the available evidence.”
An inquest in 2011 unanimously found that neither teenagers posed a risk when they were shot. The jury at the time also rejected the soldiers' claims that they had shouted warnings before shooting.
They found that no soldier present attempted to “approach the injured youths to either search them or provide medical assistance”.
The 2011 hearing was the second inquest into Daniel's death and followed the initial inquest in 1973 which recorded an open verdict.
A second inquest was ordered by the Attorney General in 2009 following an examination by the Historical Enquiries Team.
The report found that the RUC probe at the time, was “hopelessly inadequate and dreadful”.
It also said Daniel “posed no threat whatsoever”.
In 2007, the Government apologised to the Hegarty family after describing Daniel as a terrorist. An MoD document also incorrectly claimed Daniel was armed.
The teenager was branded a terrorist in a document analysing the Army's operations in Northern Ireland between August 1969 and July 2007.
The MoD claimed an error had occurred because the document had not been proof-read before being published on the internet.
Belfast Telegraph Digital