Proposed changes to Bloody Sunday inquiry challenged
Families seek legal review following threats to investigation due to PSNI budget cuts
Solicitor Peter Madden, who represents most of the Bloody Sunday families, said: “We have today lodged judicial review proceedings challenging the decision by the chief constable to effectively end this multiple murder investigation.” Photograph: Reuters
Relatives of civil rights marchers shot dead by soldiers in Derry in 1972 have lodged a legal challenge against the decision to scale back the murder investigation.
Lawyers acting for the families of the victims of Bloody Sunday have requested a judicial review of the proposal by Northern Ireland’s chief constable George Hamilton.
Solicitor Peter Madden, who represents most of the families, said: “We have today lodged judicial review proceedings challenging the decision by the chief constable to effectively end this multiple murder investigation.
“We are taking these proceedings on behalf of 20 of our clients who are the next of kin of those murdered, the wounded and the families of the wounded who have since died.”
Thirteen people were shot and killed when British paratroopers opened fire on a crowd of civilians in Derry on January 30th, 1972. Fourteen others were wounded, and one later died.
The Saville Report, which followed a long-running public inquiry, found soldiers from the Parachute Regiment had opened fire first. Prime Minister David Cameron later apologised in Parliament, saying he was “deeply sorry”.
Relatives of some of the victims want the troops responsible for the deaths to face prosecution and a fresh police investigation was opened.
However, the majority of the team investigating Bloody Sunday are now to be laid off because the PSNI faces multimillion pound budget cuts.
Mr Madden said the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) had a statutory obligation to hold an adequately resourced investigation.
He referred to the PSNI’s successful court action in America where the organisation obtained transcripts of testimony given by former paramilitaries to Boston College’s Belfast Project allegedly relating to some of Northern Ireland’s most notorious crimes.
Mr Madden added: “The chief constable’s decision to end this murder enquiry was made on the eve of the commencement of the process where the soldiers were to be interviewed under caution.
“Less than six months ago the PSNI talked of its “statutory duty to investigate fully all matters of serious crime, including murder”, in its pursuit of the Boston College tapes. It appears that this statutory duty does not extend to murders committed by the British Army.”
PSNI chief constable George Hamilton has warned that the force would be “unrecognisable” because of the need to save at least £50 million and said his priority had to be policing the present.
The Historical Enquiries Team (HET), a specialist unit set up to investigate unsolved killings during the Troubles, is also being shut down as part of the cuts.
The impact of financial pressures on the Bloody Sunday probe was outlined during a meeting of the Northern Ireland Policing Board last week.
The chief constable revealed that 10 temporary staff had been lost from the investigation last month, with a further three due to leave on December 31st.
It emerged that the investigation was likely to be transferred to a newly established Legacy Investigation Branch, but the details have yet to be finalised.
However, the potential interviews of soldiers have already been postponed and are under review because of the uncertain financial climate.