Bloody Sunday soldiers would have to serve full prison terms

Posted By: November 12, 2015

Allison Morris. Irish News(Belfast). Thursday, November 12, 2015
Any British soldiers convicted in relation to the Bloody Sunday murders would have to serve their sentence in full due to a legal anomaly.

The loophole under Good Friday Agreement legislation means that Troubles-related offences committed before August 1973 are not eligible for early release after two years.

The legislation only covers scheduled offences following the introduction of the Emergency Provisions Act, which saw paramilitary cases tried by a judge without a jury.

Such courts were established in response to a report submitted to Westminster by Lord Diplock and replaced internment without trial.

An amendment to the legislation would be required to include any offences committed before August 1973. Until that date 910 people had been killed as a result of the Troubles. The vast majority of the murders remain unsolved. The total includes 497 killings during 1972, the bloodiest year of the Troubles.

Along with Bloody Sunday and the British army killings at Ballymurphy in west Belfast, the loophole would affect any prosecutions in relation to the loyalist bombing of McGurk’s bar in 1971, and the IRA attack on Claudy and the Bloody Friday bombings the following year.

Until now the anomaly has gone largely unnoticed because no-one has been convicted of Troubles killings prior to that date.

Last night a 66-year-old former member of the Parachute Regiment questioned by detectives about the murders of William Nash, Michael McDaid and John Young on Bloody Sunday in Derry in January 1972 was released on bail pending enquiries.

‘Soldier J’, who appeared before the Saville Inquiry, was arrested in Co Antrim on Tuesday.

Last night TUV leader Jim Allister called for the law to be amended 


“The monstrous suggestion that a soldier convicted over the events on Bloody Sunday would not qualify for early release, while hundreds of murdering terrorists have, is itself another illustration of the perversity of the Belfast Agreement and NI Sentences Act 1998, which flowed from it,” he said.

“Early release, it seems, is only available for scheduled offences arising after August 1973. 

“Hence the discriminatory vista before any soldier convicted out of the events of January 1972. It behoves her majesty’s government to commit now to remedying by legislation this anti-security-forces trap.

“Bad enough the special pursuit of soldiers while most historical crimes 

by terrorists are passed by but to compound it by subjecting any convicted soldier to the full rigour of the law, so ignominiously set aside for terrorists, would be intolerable.”

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