The Bloody Sunday Inquiry was announced by the Prime Minister Tony Blair in a statement to the House of Commons on 29 January 1998.
The basis for the Inquiry was new evidence that was not available to Lord Widgery. The weight of new material available was such that the events of 30 January 1972 required re-examination.
The Inquiry was set up under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921. This means the Tribunal had the same legal powers as the High Court to require individuals to attend before it and to provide documents.
The Tribunal’s terms of reference were to inquire into: “the events of Sunday, 30th January 1972 which led to loss of life in connection with the procession in Londonderry on that day, taking account of any new information relevant to events on that day”.
The Inquiry was conducted by an international tribunal of judges, chaired by the Right Honourable Lord Saville of Newdigate. The other Tribunal members were the Honourable William L. Hoyt (formerly Chief Justice of New Brunswick, Canada) and the Honourable John L. Toohey (former Justice of the High Court of Australia).
It was the duty of the Tribunal to seek the truth about what happened on Bloody Sunday and to do so fairly, impartially and thoroughly
No, this was an Inquiry not a trial. It was inquisitorial not adversarial. The Tribunal took the initiative in trying to ascertain the truth. Unlike an adversarial contest, it was for the Tribunal to seek all the relevant material. Its task was not to decide in favour of one party or another. Indeed, from the point of view of the Tribunal, there were no parties or sides.
Christopher Clarke QC, Alan Roxburgh, Cathryn McGahey and Bilal Rawat were Counsel to the Inquiry. Their primary role was to advise the Tribunal and to assist the Inquiry by presenting the evidence to the Tribunal and questioning the witnesses on their behalf.
The Inquiry sat in the Guildhall, Londonderry, Northern Ireland.
The opening statement from Lord Saville was made on 3 April 1998. Oral hearings commenced on 27 March 2000 with the opening speech by Christopher Clarke QC, Counsel to the Inquiry. The first witness to give oral evidence was heard on 28 November 2000 and the Inquiry finished hearing the main body of witnesses on 13 February 2004.
In June 2004 two additional witnesses were heard and there were further hearings regarding written submissions from the interested parties. Counsel to the Inquiry gave a two-day closing speech beginning on the 22 November 2004. One further witness was heard in January 2005.
In December 2001 the Court of Appeal ruled that the evidence of the military witnesses should not be taken in Londonderry on the grounds that they had reasonable fears for their safety. The Tribunal concluded that for this part of the evidence the Inquiry hearings should move to Great Britain.
On 14 March 2002 the Inquiry announced that the venue for the hearings would be Central Hall, Westminster.
The Inquiry then sat in London between Tuesday 24th September 2002 (Day 237/Witness 572) and 21st October 2003 (Day 386/Witness 842).
The Inquiry returned to the Guildhall, Londonderry on 29 October 2003 to hear the remaining oral evidence.
The members of the Tribunal have retired to write their report. It is extremely difficult to predict how long the outstanding work will take, but they now expect to deliver the completed report to the Secretary of State in the week beginning 22nd March 2010.
The Inquiry interviewed and received statements from around 2,500 people and 922 of these were called to give oral evidence.
The number of witnesses in each category called to give oral evidence was as follows:
Experts and Forensic Scientists 9
Media (including photographers) 49
Paramilitary or Former Paramilitary 35
Politician and Civil Servant (including intelligence officers) 39
Although this was an inquisitorial inquiry and not an adversarial contest, the Tribunal allowed the families of those who died on Bloody Sunday, those who were wounded that day, and soldiers to be represented.
They are represented by various different firms of solicitors and the Treasury Solicitor. In addition, a number of other individuals were granted a measure of legal representation.
Normally, questions were put to witnesses by Counsel to the Inquiry. When appropriate, subject to the discretion of the Tribunal, questions could be put by Counsel for the interested parties. The Tribunal also questioned some witnesses.
In some instances witnesses were ‘screened’ while giving their evidence. This meant they were only visible to the Tribunal, counsel and other legal representatives. Members of the public and media could hear the evidence being delivered but could not see the witness.
It was up to the Tribunal to decide whether an application for screening would be granted.
No. Although they were screened from view during hearings, the witness’s name was in the public domain. Applications for anonymity were separate.
Witnesses who gave evidence anonymously could also apply to be screened. Again, it was up to the Tribunal to make a decision on these applications.
This was done for security reasons. The Tribunal ruled in October 1999 that all soldiers whose identity was not already clearly in the public domain would not be identified in the course of the Inquiry’s proceedings unless the Tribunal directed or ruled otherwise. This gave effect to the judgment of the Court of Appeal of 28 July 1999.
No. However, the Attorney General has stipulated that any written material or oral evidence provided by a witness cannot be used to incriminate that witness in any later criminal proceedings. It was considered essential in order to reach the truth of what happened on Bloody Sunday that witnesses should not refuse to co-operate on the grounds that they might incriminate themselves.
This does not rule out the possibility of future criminal proceedings against an individual, but only means that their own evidence to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry cannot be used against them.
For more information on this ruling see the 25 February 1999 press notice on the Inquiry website www.bloody-sunday-inquiry.org/press-notices/
The Tribunal, Counsel to the Inquiry, other Inquiry staff, the legal representatives of the interested parties, and stenographers (who produce transcripts of the hearings using Livenote software) were present continuously.
The media and the public were also welcome and attended. In the Guildhall the upper gallery had seats reserved for the public and the lower gallery had separate areas for the use of family members and the media. There were also separate family, public and media seating areas at Central Hall.
There was a media centre located at 1 Guildhall Street where CCTV and evidence display screens linked to the Hearing Chamber, land lines, a fax, ISDN line, photocopier were available to journalists. During the London hearings, a similar facility was available adjacent to the hearing chamber in Central Hall.
Yes. Those interested in following the Inquiry could view the hearings live on screens via CCTV in the main hall in the Guildhall. Media could continue to use the press facility at 1 Guildhall Street.
Stenographers recorded the proceedings contemporaneously in electronic form. Tribunal members, Counsel to the Inquiry and Counsel for the interested parties all had instant access to the transcripts via computer, and were able to highlight particular sections and make notes as the text appeared on their screens in real time. Hard copies could be run off at any time and distributed to the media centre. Perfected transcripts were produced at the end of each day’s evidence and placed on the Inquiry’s website www.bloody-sunday-inquiry.org/hearing-transcripts/
Approximately 2,500 witness statements were received by the Inquiry and 33 bundles of evidence comprising about 160 volumes, including 13 volumes of photographs, were sent to representatives of the interested parties. It is estimated that these bundles contain 20 — 30 million words. In addition, the bundles contain 121 audiotapes and 110 videotapes.
The documentary evidence was scanned and sent in CD-ROM format to the interested parties.
The total cost of the Inquiry to Government currently stands at £190.3 million to the end of February 2010.
An estimated £15 million of net additional costs arose from the transfer of the hearings to London.