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Dublin: 12 °C Thursday 23 October, 2014

Man accused of Hyde Park bombing cannot be prosecuted because of secret deal

The PSNI has apologised to the families of victims and survivors following the collapse of the case of John Downey

File photo dated 20/07/82 of dead horses covered up and wrecked cars at the scene after an IRA bomb exploded as the Household Cavalry was passing, in Hyde Park, London.
File photo dated 20/07/82 of dead horses covered up and wrecked cars at the scene after an IRA bomb exploded as the Household Cavalry was passing, in Hyde Park, London.
Image: PA/PA Wire/Press Association Images

CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST John Downey, the man suspected of carrying out the 1982 Hyde Park bombing, have been dropped because of a secret deal that was made between the British government and Sinn Féin.

A court in London granted an abuse of process application in the case against Downey on Friday and the Crown Prosecution Service today said it would not appeal the decision. The judge ruled that an official assurance – even though it was given in error – meant that the 62-year-old could not face trial.

It was a “catastrophic failure” that “wholly misled” the defendant, according to Justice Sweeney.

The PSNI has accept fulled responsibility for the “failures which resulted in this outcome”, Chief Constable Matt Baggott said in a statement today.

“We will be referring this matter to the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland,” he added, before apologising to the families of the victims and survivors of the Hyde Park atrocity.

“I deeply regret these failings which should not have happened. We are currently carrying out a check of these cases to ensure the accuracy of information processed by the PSNI.”

Four British soldiers died in the 20 July 1982 bombing. Seven horses were also killed and 31 people, including some tourists, injured.

Wanted

Downey, 62, was arrested last May and charged with the murder of Roy John Bright (36), Dennis Richard Anthony Daly (23), Simon Andrew Tipper (19) and Geoffrey Vernon Young (19) – all members of the Royal Household Cavalry who were travelling from their barracks to Buckingham Palace for the Changing of the Guard.

Metropolitan Police had him on its wanted list for more than 30 years, unaware that a deal had been put in place during the Northern Ireland peace process which guaranteed that he would not be prosecuted.

Making his ruling to drop the charges on Friday, Justice Sweeney described it as a rare case which “offends the court’s sense of justice and propriety to be asked to try the defendant”.

He added that there was a “public interest in holding officials of the state to promises they have made in full understanding of what is involved in the bargain”.

Blunder

In July 2007, a letter was sent from the Northern Ireland Office to Donegal man, Downey, to reassure him that there were no outstanding directions for prosecution in the UK.

However, Scotland Yard still had his name on their wanted books and have said today that he was “incorrectly informed”.

“Downey was in fact wanted by the Metropolitan Police Service’s Counter Terrorism Command SO15 and a record existed of this. This prompted his arrest at Gatwick Airport in May 2013 and subsequent charge,” it noted, but added that it “respects the decision of the court”.

“Our thoughts remain with the families and friends of those who lost their lives and those who were injured during the tragic events in Hyde Park on 20 July 1982.

The strength and dignity the families have continued to show has been remarkable and we will continue to support them during this extremely difficult time.

The case remains open and any further information that comes to light will be fully investigated.

Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin politician Pearse Doherty has welcomed the court ruling.

In a statement, he claimed that Downey should never have been arrested nor his family “put through this ordeal for the past nine months”.

“The arrest and detention of John was a clear breach of commitments given by the British Government at Weston Park and in subsequent agreements,” he added.

“I welcome his release and look forward to seeing him at home in Donegal in the near future.”

Family Statement

A statement from the families bereaved in the bombing, said the judgement left them sad and bitterly disappointed.

“This news has left us all feeling devastatingly left down, even more so when the monumental blunder behind this judgement lies at the feet of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

“The end result is that the opportunity for the full chain of those terrible events will never be put in the public domain for justice to be seen to be done.

“With no sensible explanation from the PSNI, this must surely now raise the question of whether there have been other errors in the issuing of other such letters.

“The families urge a thorough review of what remains of the administrative scheme to avoid a repeat of what has happened here.”

Downey had denied all charges.

Read: Man due in court over IRA murder of four British soldiers at Hyde Park

30 years ago: Anger at Irish Government over IRA bombings

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