British soldiers involved in the killing of civilians on Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972 are threatening legal action which could delay publication of the report of the public inquiry or lead to a dilution of the findings.
The move comes after the Saville Inquiry rejected demands that it should not make findings implying criminality unless it was satisfied of the facts beyond reasonable doubt.
The three tribunal judges have outlined the standard of proof they would adopt in making findings in their final report next year.
In their ruling, Lord Saville, Mr Justice Hoyt and Mr Justice Toohey concluded there was no good reason to limit their findings if three separate guidelines were followed.
These were: that the inquiry made clear the degree of confidence with which it reached any conclusion; that there was evidence and reasoning which logically
supported the conclusion to the degree of confidence and that those concerned have the chance to deal with allegations made against them.
Welcoming the inquiry’s ruling Derry solicitor Greg McCartney - representing the family of Bloody Sunday victim, Jim Wray - said: “It seems the only sensible way to proceed.”
Mr McCartney said that to apply the criminal standard of proof could have hindered the Inquiry in its ultimate aims.
But barristers acting on the soldiers’ behalf are insisting that Saville must use the criminal standard of proof -- even though any resulting criminal cases would be subject to the normal standard of proof.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on the issue of truth, Philip McGuigan said the British military has sought “time and again” to stall the work of the inquiry.
“If the approach of the British military establishment to the Bloody Sunday Tribunal is anything to go by then it is very clear that the British are not capable at this time of engaging in a honest and open way in any process of truth recovery.”