By David Young and Jonathan McCambridge, PA
A former British soldier found guilty of killing a man at an army checkpoint in Co Tyrone more than 30 years ago will face a sentence hearing later.
In November, David Jonathan Holden (53) was convicted of the manslaughter of Aidan McAnespie in February 1988.
He was the first British army soldier to be found guilty of a historical offence in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement.
Holden, who was released on bail pending sentencing, is due to return to Belfast Crown Court on Friday.
Regardless of what sentence is handed down, Holden will only serve a maximum of two years in jail under the controversial early release provisions of the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement.
Mr McAnespie (23) was killed in Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone, moments after walking through a border security checkpoint.
He was on his way to a local GAA club when he was shot in the back.
Holden had admitted firing the shot which killed Mr McAnespie but had said he had discharged the weapon by accident because his hands were wet.
But trial judge Mr Justice O’Hara said he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Holden was guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence.
He found that Holden had pointed a machine gun at McAnespie and pulled the trigger, while assuming the gun was not cocked.
Delivering judgment in the non-jury trial, the judge said: “That assumption should not have been made.”
He also said the former soldier had given a “deliberately false account” of what happened.
The judge said: “The question for me is this – just how culpable is the defendant in the circumstances of this case?
“In my judgment he is beyond any reasonable doubt criminally culpable.”
The sentence hearing comes amid ongoing controversy over UK government plans to deal with Northern Ireland’s troubled past.
The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill proposals provide an effective amnesty for those suspected of killings during the conflict, if they agree to co-operate with a new body, known as the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (Icrir).
The Bill would also prohibit future civil cases and inquests related to Troubles crimes.