Ebene News – GB – Former soldiers officially acquitted of the 1972 murder of the official leader of the IRA

Veterans trial in Belfast collapses after exclusion of statements about Joe McCann shooting in 1972

Two former paratroopers accused of murdering an official IRA leader have been formally acquitted after prosecutors presented no further evidence in their trial

The veterans’ trial at Belfast Crown Court collapsed after the Public Prosecutor’s Office (PPS) confirmed it would not appeal Judge O’Hara’s decision to exclude the statements of the ex-soldiers on Joe McCann shooting in 1972

This was the first trial in several years that involved charges against former servicemen who served in the conflict in Northern Ireland Four more cases involving prosecutions of ex-combatants are at the pre-trial stage in regional courts

McCann, 24, was shot dead by paratroopers as he tried to escape arrest by an undercover policeman in Belfast’s market district in April 1972

It then proceeded to a separate voir dire hearing to determine whether the statements and interviews given by the former soldiers, who are now in their sixties, would be admissible as evidence

With the PPS having admitted that the equipment was the only evidence in court that could be used to prove that the soldiers had shot McCann, his decision not to appeal the judge’s decision meant that the case could not not be prosecuted

After the prosecution confirmed that it would not present any further evidence in the case, O’Hara told the defendants: “In the circumstances, Mr. A and C, I officially find you not guilty of the murder charge”

The voir dire learned that the evidence implicating the accused, known in court as Soldiers A and C, came from two sources

The first was the statements they made to the Royal Military Police in 1972, the second source was the statements and interview responses they gave to a legacy police unit, the Historical Investigations team (HET), in 2010

This was due to a series of shortcomings in the way they were taken, including the fact that the soldiers were ordered to do so, they were not taken on bail, there was no no access to legal representation and army policy not to ask soldiers to provide an explanation or justification for their actions

But prosecutors argued that the information in the 1972 statements became admissible because it was adopted and accepted by the defendants during their engagement with the HET in March 2010

In his ruling last Friday, O’Hara endorsed the defense contention that none of the evidence should be admitted at trial He said it was not legitimate to present the 1972 evidence in court “dressed and refreshed with new 2010 blanket”

The judge questioned why the HET’s re-examination of the case had not triggered a new investigation by the Northern Ireland Police Service as the veterans were questioned on bail for the offense murder specific He suggested the course of action could have made a prosecution more durable

The prosecution was initiated after the Attorney General of Northern Ireland referred the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions in 2014 after receiving the findings of the HET report

Joe McCann, Official Irish Republican Army, The Troubles, Acquittal, UK, Northern Ireland

Ebene News – UK – Former soldiers officially acquitted of the 1972 murder of the leader official IRA

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/may/04/ex-soldiers-acquitted-1972-murder-joe-mccann-official-ira