There have been claims made by a solicitor for the family of one Blood Sunday victim that Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson may have put the chances of a fair trial at jeopardy. The claims were made by contacting the Attorney General for Northern Ireland with regards to the soldier due to be charged with murder.
The legal team acting on behalf of the family of William Nash, were informed on Thursday that no soldier will face prosecution over his death, and have argued that statements made recently by Mr Williamson may amount to contempt of court.
Soldier F, as he is being referred to throughout this process, is to be charged with counts of two murders and four attempted murders in relation to the events of Bloody Sunday.
After this decision was announced by the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland this week, Mr Williamson made a statement confirming that the Ministry of Defence would be acting in support of Soldier F and cover all of his legal costs, stating; “We are indebted to those soldiers who served with courage and distinction to bring peace to Northern Ireland.
The welfare of our former service personnel is of the utmost importance and we will offer full legal and pastoral support to the individual affected by today’s decision.”
“This includes funding all his legal costs and providing welfare support. The Ministry of Defence is working across Government to drive through a new package of safeguards to ensure our Armed Forces are not unfairly treated.
And the Government will urgently reform the system for dealing with legacy issues. Our serving and former personnel cannot live in constant fear of prosecution.”
In response, a solicitor from Phoenix Law, Darragh Mackin, stated; “Not only has the Secretary of State threatened the fairness of the judicial process, he has also shown a blatant disregard for our client and the other families affected by the events of Bloody Sunday.
Mr Williamson seems to have forgotten that as an MP he has responsibilities to all citizens and not just the armed forces. Many lives in Derry were destroyed on Bloody Sunday and he would do well to be mindful of that. It is vital the legal process be allowed to function without attempts to influence it.”
Commenting in a recent BBC Radio 4 podcast interview, Mr Williamson was questioned on whether or not he thought there should be a time limit in place with regards to the prosecution of military service personnel – a matter of great interest to solicitors in Lancashire and around the UK – he responded “Absolutely, to ensure that we don’t have spurious prosecutions.
No-one in the Armed Forces wants to be above the law, but what we did need to do is ensure that they do have the protection so that they don’t feel under threat. It’s not just about Northern Ireland, but about Iraq and Afghanistan, conflicts before that and in the future.”
When asked specifically if he thought this new provision would make a difference to the Bloody Sunday trials, he stated; “Sadly, I don’t think that will come in time. I think we have to ask a real question as to Northern Ireland has moved on. There’s been so much progress – we’ve got to look to the future, not at the past.”