The Chief Constable George Hamilton has revealed that the PSNI have been able to use evidence given at the Saville Inquiry as part of the force’s ongoing investigations into the events of Bloody Sunday.
The police chief has also confirmed that the PSNI have been investigating possible criminal offences committed by civilians as well as by paratroopers in the Bogside on January 30, 1972, when 13 people were shot dead.
In correspondence, newly-published by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Mr. Hamilton, indicated that the proceedings of the Saville Inquiry have been used as the basis for the PSNI’s ongoing probes.
He was responding to a request for clarity from Laurence Robertson, the Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.
Mr. Robertson wrote to Mr. Hamilton in January and referred to an undertaking given by the Attorney General for Northern Ireland in 1999 that no evidence given by any individual at the Saville Inquiry could be used in criminal proceedings against them.
In his response, Mr. Hamilton wrote: “Any oral or written evidence presented at the Saville Inquiry was subject to an undertaking given by the then Attorney General on February 23, 1999.
“This undertaking prevented any self-incriminating evidence given by a witness being used later as part of an investigation or to form the basis for conducting such an investigation.
“The undertaking did not, however, prevent evidence given by a witness into the actions of another person from being used investigatively, nor did it prevent the use of non-incriminating evidence more generally.”
Mr. Hamilton said the PSNI has abided by this undertaking throughout the course of its investigations.
The Chief Constable also revealed that evidence given at the Saville Inquiry has been used to explore the possibility that civilians conducted crimes on Bloody Sunday, although he said it was too early in the investigations to elaborate.
“I can also confirm that possible criminal offences relating to civilians remain under investigation.
“That aspect of the investigation is not yet complete and you will understand therefore that I am limited in what I am able to say at this point,” he wrote.
In a letter to the former Chief Constable Matt Baggott in 2013 the former Attorney General Dominic Grieve outlined the reasoning behind the undertaking before warning that it was “not an immunity”.