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Joe McCann: Trial of two soldiers collapses Joe McCann: Trial of two soldiers collapses
(32 minutes later)
Two former soldiers accused of the murder of an Official IRA man in 1972 have been formally acquitted after their trial collapsed. Joe McCann was shot near his home in the Markets area of Belfast in April 1972
Two former paratroopers accused of the murder of an Official IRA man in 1972 have been formally acquitted after their trial collapsed.
Joe McCann, 24, was shot in disputed circumstances in Joy Street in the Markets area of Belfast in April 1972.Joe McCann, 24, was shot in disputed circumstances in Joy Street in the Markets area of Belfast in April 1972.
The court heard he was evading arrest when soldiers opened fire, killing him.The court heard he was evading arrest when soldiers opened fire, killing him.
Soldiers A and C, both in their 70s, had pleaded not guilty. The men admitted firing shots but said they had acted lawfully when doing so.Soldiers A and C, both in their 70s, had pleaded not guilty. The men admitted firing shots but said they had acted lawfully when doing so.
Both soldiers were interviewed by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) in 2010 and it was this evidence that formed the prosecution's case. Both soldiers were interviewed by a police legacy unit, the Historical Enquiries Team (HET), in 2010 and it was this evidence that formed a substantial part of the prosecution's case.
The judge ruled this evidence as inadmissible and the Public Prosecution Service on Tuesday confirmed it would not appeal against that decision. The judge ruled this evidence as inadmissible and the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) on Tuesday confirmed it would not appeal against that decision, meaning the case could not proceed.
More to follow. 1972 evidence 'dressed up with 2010 cover'
The trial opened last Monday and heard a day of evidence before moving to the issue of whether statements and interviews given by the ex-soldiers would be admissible.
The court was told that evidence implicating the soldiers came from two sources - statements given to the Royal Military Police in 1972 and interview answers given to the HET in 2010.
The PPS accepted that the 1972 statements would be inadmissible in isolation, due to deficiencies in how they were taken including that the soldiers were ordered to make them and they were not conducted under caution.
However, prosecutors argued that the information in the 1972 statements became admissible because they were adopted and accepted by the defendants during their engagement with the HET in March 2010.
However, the judge said it was not legitimate to put the 1972 evidence before the court "dressed up and freshened up with a new 2010 cover".
He questioned why the HET's re-examination did not prompt a fresh investigation by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), with the veterans interviewed under caution.
The judge suggested that course of action might have made a prosecution more sustainable.