Relatives of Bloody Sunday victims could take the chief constable to court over proposals to scale back the police investigation, their solicitor has said.
Peter Madden, who is representing most of the families and wounded, said the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) was legally obliged to investigate the 1972 murders and called for the probe to be properly resourced.
In a statement issued on behalf of the families, Mr Madden said: “Our position on this issue is very simple. Lord Saville’s conclusions reaffirmed the innocence of those murdered and wounded. There is a continuing legal obligation on the PSNI to investigate murder and the erosion of that responsibility, particularly in view of those conclusions, can never be justified. It is incumbent therefore on the police to pursue those responsible for the events of Bloody Sunday.
“We will meet the PSNI shortly with the families and wounded that we represent and in the absence of a reconsideration by the PSNI and a firm commitment to properly resource this murder investigation we will be left with no alternative but to challenge that decision in the High Court in Belfast.”
Thirteen people were shot and killed when British paratroopers opened fire on a crowd of civil rights marchers in Derry on January 30, 1972. Fourteen others were wounded, one later died.
The marchers had been campaigning for equal rights such as one man, one vote.
The Saville Report which followed a long-running public inquiry found soldiers from the Parachute Regiment had opened fire first.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron later apologised in Parliament, saying he was “deeply sorry”.
Relatives of some victims want the troops responsible for the deaths to face prosecution and a fresh police investigation was opened.
However, they reacted with anger when it emerged that temporary staff investigating Bloody Sunday are to be laid off as a result of financial pressures.
The PSNI faces multimillion-pound budget cuts, partly due to political stalemate over controversial welfare reform which is threatening devolved power-sharing institutions at Stormont.
Chief Constable George Hamilton warned that the force would be “unrecognisable” because of the need to save at least £50m (€63.84m) and said his priority had to be policing the present.
The Historical Enquiries Team (HET), a specialist unit set up to investigate unsolved Troubles killings, is also being shut down as part of the cuts.
Stormont politicians are currently trying to grapple with making around £200m (€255.3m) worth of savings.
A significant amount of that sum – £87m (€111.06m) – is the result of a penalty imposed by the UK Treasury for the ministerial Executive’s failure to agree to implement the Government’s controversial welfare reforms.