IOL: Bloody Sunday Inquiry may be further delayed

Bloody Sunday Inquiry may be further delayed
26/03/2004 - 17:34:46

The report of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry may be delayed over the question of access to previously confidential lawyers’ files, it was learned tonight.

Tribunal chairman Lord Saville has asked legal teams involved in the long running inquiry to study a recent unrelated Appeal Court ruling and consider whether it has a bearing on what communications they have had with their client witnesses that need to be handed over to him.

The inquiry has been expected to report to the British government on the shooting by paratroopers of 14 civilians on a civil rights march in Derry in 1972 in about 12 months’ time – seven years after Tony Blair announced the inquiry.

But the report could be delayed still further if Lord Saville seeks to enforce the handing over of more documents and the lawyers challenge it.

And with more than 900 witnesses having appeared at the inquiry, there could be a mass of new paperwork for Lord Saville and the two Commonwealth judges sitting with him to plough through, even if it is freely handed over.

The lawyers have already had to hand over all relevant material to Lord Saville except those they consider confidential under existing lawyer -client privilege.

But in a landmark judgment, Master of the Rolls, Lord Phillips, questioned whether the existing privilege of confidentiality from disclosure of communication between lawyer and client should stand where litigation was not anticipated.

Lord Phillips said in the March 1 judgment that it was nearly 50 years since the matter had been last looked at and it was perhaps time for a review.

The ruling is being appealed to the House of Lords and, it is understood, could go the Europe if the Law Lords back Lord Phillips.

The legal teams representing the Bloody Sunday witnesses are understood to be currently considering their positions.

They could refuse to hand over material or challenge Lord Saville in the courts seeking to have any decision delayed until the full implications of the Lord Phillips judgment were finally ruled on – and that could be years away.

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