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27 June 2002 Edition

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Soldiers refused screening by Saville

BY FERN LANE


Lord Saville has refused applications for screening from two former soldiers, Soldier H and Soldier 104. Both are due to appear before the inquiry when it transfers to London in September.

In his ruling last Thursday, 20 July, Lord Saville said that after having received advice from the security services and the Metropolitan police the tribunal saw "no objective justification for the expressed fears of the soldiers, even assuming that such fears are genuinely held... It must follow that there are no good reasons for adopting what we have previously described as the wholly exceptional measure of screening. The proposition that all, or even a substantial proportion of the soldiers should not only give their evidence anonymously and in London, but should also do so screened, seems to us to be calculated to have such an adverse effect on the openness of the Inquiry and the confidence of people in the Inquiry that the balance would have to fall on the side of refusing screening for that reason."

Lord Saville's ruling on the security provided for Soldier 027, who is currently in hiding after saying in his statement that British soldiers on Bloody Sunday indulged in "reckless shooting, was challenged by lawyers for the soldiers. The former Para has said that his life is now under threat from other British soldiers.

Soldier 027 was awarded protective measures amounting to some £40,000 after a message appeared on the Parachute Regiment's website asking "who is the traitor telling tales about Bloody Sunday? Anyone got any names?"

During a protracted exchange with Lord Saville, David Lloyd Jones, for the soldiers, asked for the disclosure on documents upon which the tribunal had reached its decision on Soldier 027. He said that the tribunal had based its decision to award protection and anonymity to Soldier 027 on the basis of "fourth hand" "statements of opinion", including those from one Superintendent Hunt of the Metropolitan police, the NIO and RUC.

He said that the "Tribunal had reached a conclusion, a thoroughly pejorative conclusion which cast a slur against soldiers and soldier witnesses". Lord Saville replied that Lloyd Jones was "perfectly free to say it was a bad decision and we should not have relied upon that advice from the Met, but that is the decision we took and that is the material upon which we took it".

The Saville Inquiry resumes on 2 September in London.

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