Hundreds of former soldiers due to testify at the Bloody Sunday inquiry in Londonderry will be able to give their evidence by video link from the mainland.
Lord Saville of Newdigate, the chairman of the tribunal, has reversed his previous decision, which compelled all witnesses to give evidence in person. The development follows a Court of Appeal judgment last month that ruled the inquiry must take into account the soldiers' safety before directing them to appear.
In letters written to all those involved in the inquiry, including the families of the victims of the 1972 shootings, lawyers advising Lord Saville say the inquiry will now allow the soldiers' evidence to be given by video link. The decision is expected to be challenged by victims' families who argue the soldiers face no risk.
Last month Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the Master of the Rolls, said in a reserved judgment that the soldiers' human rights would not be protected if they were ordered to attend hearings at the Londonderry Guildhall.
The test case was brought by 36 military witnesses who had accused the tribunal of "knowingly exposing individuals to the risk of death".
Relatives of those who died in the shootings said they were bitterly disappointed. Mickey McKinney, who lost his 27-year-old brother, William, said: "Again we feel an inferior court has overruled an international inquiry. Here you have a system starting to protect its own."
The soldiers, who fired live rounds when a march turned into a riot and 13 people died, have already successfully challenged a decision by the tribunal that they should be identified by their full names.Reuse content