LONDON — Britain’s agreement to pay hefty settlements to former Guantanamo detainees who accused the government of complicity in their torture averts a protracted legal battle that could have compromised national security and disclosed sensitive U.S. intelligence.

The agreement, which came after months of legal wrangling, was a first official step toward distancing Britain from the interrogation tactics sanctioned by President George W. Bush during the U.S.-led war on terror.

The payout could prompt other former detainees to push for compensation in U.S. courts and elsewhere – even though Britain admitted no guilt.

Justice Secretary Ken Clark did not disclose the size of the settlement or who was involved, saying in his announcement to parliament Tuesday there was a binding confidentiality clause.

However, a British lawyer with knowledge of the terms told The Associated Press that at least seven former detainees – all British citizens or residents – would receive payments and one man would receive more than $1.6 million.

British spies were not accused of torturing detainees themselves, but former detainees alleged that British security services violated international law by knowing about the abuse and doing nothing to stop it.

Clarke said Britain had not admitted any “culpability.”