A former member of the British Army's Parachute Regiment charged with the murders of two men and five attempted murders on Bloody Sunday will not stand trial, prosecutors have told their families.
The man, referred to as Soldier F, was charged with murdering James Wray and William McKinney in Derry in January 1972. He was the only person to be charged in connection with the killings of 13 civilians that day.
The Public Prosecution Service this morning informed their relatives that it will not proceed with the case against him as there is no longer a reasonable prospect of securing a conviction.
A lawyer representing the families said they do not accept the decision and will mount a legal challenge.
PPS Director Stephen Herron, who took the decision to prosecute the former soldier in March 2019, met relatives of those killed and injured in Derry this morning.
Solicitor Ciarán Shiels said the relatives had been concerned about the conduct of the prosecution case for some time.
"The decision communicated today to the victims of Bloody Sunday represents another damning indictment of the British justice system," he said in a statement.
Lord Saville, who chaired a public inquiry into Bloody Sunday, said in his report that he was confident he could positively identify soldiers responsible for the killings.
He imposed a ban on naming any of the former members of the Parachute Regiment and instead referred to them by letters.
The report said one soldier, Lance Corporal F, had shot dead three men and possibly two others.
A former soldier charged with murdering a 15-year-old boy in Derry in July 1972 will also not stand trial, his family has been told.
Fifteen-year-old Daniel Hegarty was shot twice in the head close to his home in the Creggan area of the city during what was called Operation Motorman.
Thousands of British soldiers were sent into the city to break through a number of no-go areas established by the IRA.
A man referred to as Soldier B had been charged with his murder, but the Public Prosecution Service this morning informed his family that there is no longer a reasonable prospect of securing a conviction.
Both decisions are linked to the collapse of the trial of two former paratroopers accused of the murder of an Official IRA leader in Belfast in April 1972.
Soldiers A and C were acquitted of the murder of Joe McCann, 24, in April this year after the Public Prosecution Service offered no further evidence at their trial.
That followed a decision by the trial judge at Belfast Crown Court to exclude statements given by the ex-soldiers about the shooting.
Mr Justice O'Hara ruled that the soldiers' statements and interviews were not admissible as evidence. The PPS did not appeal his decision, so the case collapsed.
The court was told there were a number of problems with statements they gave in 1972, including deficiencies in how they were taken, the fact the soldiers were ordered to make them, they were not conducted under caution, and there was no access to legal representation.
In his statement today, solicitor Ciarán Shiels added: "We have this morning informed the Public Prosecution Service of our intention to seek an immediate judicial review of its decision to discontinue the prosecution of Soldier F.
"The reasons underpinning the PPS decision relate to the admissibility of statements made to the Royal Military Police in 1972 by a number of soldiers who were witnesses to events in Glenfada Park.
He added: "The admissibility of RMP statements in relation to the events of Bloody Sunday is a matter already under active consideration by the High Court, which will hear detailed legal argument over five days in September.
"In those circumstances, the decision by the PPS to halt this prosecution is clearly premature in the absence of a High Court ruling on the issue".
A spokesperson for Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said: "This is deeply upsetting for all the families involved who have spent so many years in pursuit of justice for their loved ones and our thoughts are with all of them today.
"While it is important that nothing is said or done that could be seen to prejudice ongoing due legal process, it is vital that the rationale for these decisions is clearly communicated.
"All victims' families must have access to an effective investigation and to a process of justice in accordance with the law and regardless of the perpetrator.
"Officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs are keeping in contact with the families at this time on behalf of the Government."
In a statement, the PPS said it has "confirmed that reviews have been completed in two cases involving the prosecution of former soldiers for shooting incidents that took place in 1972".
"In both cases a decision has been taken that the Test for Prosecution is no longer met and that therefore the proceedings should be discontinued."
The statement added: "Soldier F was the only individual reported by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) in connection with the events of Bloody Sunday in respect of whom a prosecution was commenced. A summary of reasons for the decisions not to prosecute all of the other reported individuals was published at the time of those decisions in March 2019.
"The key difficulty faced by the prosecution related to the inadmissibility, for the purpose of criminal proceedings, of the previous statements made by soldiers in 1972 and also their later accounts provided to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry which reported in June 2010."
It continued: "The procedure under which the statements were taken amounted to "oppression" of the defendants, and the circumstances in which the statements were made were such that any confession made was likely to be unreliable. The evidence would therefore be excluded under both 'limbs' of Article 74(2) of PACE."