MoD to pay Bloody Sunday soldiers' fees

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image captionCivil rights marchers on the streets of Derry on Bloody Sunday

The Ministry of Defence has confirmed it will cover the legal costs of any soldier facing criminal charges over Bloody Sunday.

Eighteen ex-paratroopers have been reported to the Public Prosecution Service over the 1972 killings.

The PPS will announce on Thursday whether the soldiers will face charges.

In a letter to army veterans, the MoD said soldiers are represented "entirely at the Ministry of Defence's expense".

A Government spokesperson said: "The welfare of our personnel and veterans is of the utmost importance and we provide legal and pastoral support to any veteran who requires it."

Thirteen people were shot dead in Londonderry when members of the Parachute Regiment opened fire on civilians in 1972.

The MoD letter was issued to army veterans on Tuesday evening.

It is signed by the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, and lays out arrangements for soldiers who "are subject to investigations by the Police Service of Northern Ireland", or "who may be required to participate in other legal processes, such as inquests and public inquiries".

The MOD letter said soldiers are "represented by independent firms of solicitors, instructed by veterans themselves, in whose sole interest they act.

"This has been the case since the individuals were first regarded as suspects by the Police Service of Northern Ireland and will continue - without time limit or cap on expenditure - until all aspects of the investigation and subsequent legal process are complete."

The letter said a dedicated team has been set up looking at ways to provide appropriate legal protection to serving and former members of the armed forces "where they currently face repeated investigations and potential prosecution following events that happened many years ago".

The letter went on: "The Ministry of Defence has ensured that all veterans under investigation in Bloody Sunday are aware of the support available, either via their legal representatives or directly."

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