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Bloody Sunday inquiry a disaster, says Ken Clarke

13 June 10 14:40 GMT

The Bloody Sunday inquiry has been a "disaster in terms of time and expense" and got "ludicrously out of hand", Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has said.

Thirteen people died in 1972 when British soldiers opened fire on civil rights marchers in Londonderry.

The £190m Saville Report into the deaths will be published on Tuesday, 12 years after it was established.

Families of those who died have spoken of their anger that parts of the report have been leaked to the press.

Mr Clarke added he was considering how future inquiries should be held.

The marchers were shot dead on 30 January 1972 when British paratroopers opened fire on crowds at a civil rights demonstration. Fourteen others were wounded, one of whom later died of injuries.

An inquiry chaired by Lord Widgery was held in the immediate aftermath but it failed to satisfy families of the victims.

More than 25 years later, in 1998, then Prime Minister Tony Blair established a full inquiry under the auspices of former High Court judge, Lord Saville of Newdigate.

The Saville Inquiry took witness statements from hundreds of people and has become the longest-running and most expensive in British history.

It closed in 2004 with the report initially due for publication the following year.

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister David Cameron will formally announce the report's publication in the House of Commons.

Mr Clarke, a former barrister, criticised the expense and time taken to finish the inquiry in an interview with Sky News' Sunday Live.

He said: "There's no doubt that the kind of sums we spend now on public inquiries have vastly exceeded anything we would have contemplated when I was in practice."

More efficiency needed

"So like everything else, across the whole of the public sector really, you have to go back to the beginning and say 'Why is it costing so much more than it used to? Why is it costing so much more than any other country? What do you need to spend money on?'

"And Saville as an inquiry has been a disaster in terms of time and expense," Mr Clarke added.

Mr Clarke said he was in discussion to ensure future judge-led inquiries would be more efficiently handled.

"I'm anxiously considering how we can stop such inquiries getting ludicrously out of hand, in terms of cost and length, as the Saville Inquiry was allowed to do."

The justice secretary's comments come after the Guardian newspaper reported last week that leaked papers showed some protestors were unlawfully killed and that ex-soldiers could face prosecution.

Maj Gen Julian Thompson - who commanded Royal Marines in south Armagh during the Troubles - told the Observer it was time to draw a line under the issue "unless we want to go and prosecute all the IRA guys who murdered as well".

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