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Planned law change won't apply to soldiers involved in 1972 massacre

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has admitted that planned legal changes to protect soldiers from prosecution for historical offences will not apply to those involved in Bloody Sunday.

Mr Williamson confirmed that the new protections would come in too late to apply to troops who could be prosecuted for their role in the massacre.

Thirteen people died when soldiers from the Parachute Regiment opened fire on civil rights marchers in Derry in January 1972. A 14th victim died later.

The Saville Inquiry concluded in 2010 that all those killed or injured were innocent, and Prime Minister David Cameron made a public apology in the House of Commons, saying the shootings were "unjustified and unjustifiable".

The Public Prosecution Service will announce on Thursday wheth soldiers are to be charged.

There has been outcry from veterans' groups who feel that elderly former soldiers are being hounded for their role in the Troubles.

Speaking on the BBC Mr Williamson said that he "sadly" didn't think the new proposals would "come in time" for those being investigated over their role in Bloody Sunday.

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The Defence Secretary said that when it comes to Northern Ireland "we need to look at the future and not the past".

He added: "No one in the armed forces wants to have an immunity, to be above the law," but what we did need is to ensure that they do have the protection so that they don't feel under threat, as so many service personnel currently do.

"It's not just about Northern Ireland, it's about Iraq and Afghanistan, conflicts before that and in the future."

The latest development comes after Secretary of State Karen Bradley said in the House of Commons that Troubles deaths at the hands of soldiers and police "were not crimes. They were people acting under orders and under instruction and fulfilling their duties in a dignified and appropriate way".

The comments caused furore among victims and have led to widespread calls for her to resign.

She has since apologised and met with victims and their families.

Mrs Bradley insisted that she was "working hard" for people here intended to remain in office despite the calls to quit.

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