Belfast Telegraph

Troubles murder charge soldiers want assessment of their safety

By Alan Erwin

A threat assessment is to be examined as part of attempts to secure anonymity for two former soldiers charged with murdering an Official IRA man in Belfast 45 years ago, a court has heard.

A judge was told during a hearing yesterday that the former paratroopers may seek their own expert analysis on the risk to their lives from being named.

The defendants, known only as Soldier A and Soldier C, are facing prosecution for the killing of Joe McCann in April 1972.

McCann, one of the Official IRA's most prominent activists, was shot in disputed circumstances near his home in the city's Markets area.

A police investigation conducted at the time resulted in no-one being prosecuted. However, in 2013 a report by the now-defunct Historical Enquiries Team concluded the killing was not justified.

Files were then passed to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS), which reviewed the case and decided last year that Soldier A and Soldier C should be charged with murder.

The pair, now aged in their sixties, are set to mount a legal bid to have proceedings thrown out before trial by contesting assertions that they have a case to answer. But ahead of that preliminary inquiry their application for anonymity was due to be dealt with at Belfast Magistrates' Court yesterday.

District Judge Fiona Bagnall was told an existing threat assessment document has been compiled by police and the Ministry of Defence.

A lawyer for the former paratroopers indicated that they still have questions, and may need to instruct other experts.

Opposing the request for an adjournment, a prosecution representative argued that it would be against the interests of justice to put the case back. Agreeing to an adjournment, Judge Bagnall listed the case for four days in March to deal with both the anonymity application and preliminary inquiry.

McCann's widow Anne and their daughters Aine and Nuala attended the hearing.

Outside court the family's solicitor, Rosie Kinnear of KRW Law, said they were disappointed but not surprised by the "latest delay tactic".

She added: "Nothing will stop the family continuing their campaign for justice for Joe."

Belfast Telegraph

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