IRA Hyde Park bomb suspect walks free as deal unearthed
February 27, 2014, 12:03 am TWN
LONDON--A man suspected of carrying out a 1982 IRA bomb in London which killed four cavalry soldiers walked free on Tuesday after it emerged prosecutors had guaranteed he would never face trial.
Victims' families said they felt "devastatingly let down" after a judge at London's Old Bailey ruled that assurances given to John Downey, 62, as part of the Good Friday ceasefire brokered by the UK government meant he could not be prosecuted.
Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Constable Matt Baggott said the PSNI took full responsibility for the case's collapse.
"I wish to apologize to the families of the victims and survivors of the Hyde Park atrocity," he said.
"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."
Downey's lawyers cited an official letter sent to him in 2007 saying: "There are no warrants in existence, nor are you wanted in Northern Ireland for arrest, questioning or charging by police. The Police Service of Northern Ireland are not aware of any interest in you by any other police force."
He received the letter despite there being an arrest warrant outstanding against him and was eventually detained last May at Gatwick Airport.
He was one of 187 "on-the-runs" (OTRs) to seek clarification following the Good Friday Agreement.
Britain agreed in 2001 to give OTRs assurances that they would not face prosecution if groups were supportive of the peace process.
Judge Nigel Sweeney said any public interest in prosecution was "very significantly outweighed" by "holding officials of the state to promises they have made in the full understanding of what is involved in the bargain."
The Hyde Park attack killed Squadron Quartermaster Corporal Roy Bright, Lieutenant Anthony Daly, Trooper Simon Tipper and Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young and seven horses on July 20, 1982.
Downey strenuously denies being involved in the attack.
The victims' families said authorities were guilty of a "monumental blunder."
"This news has left us all feeling devastatingly let down, even more so when the monumental blunder behind this judgment lies at the feet of the Police Service of Northern Ireland," said a joint statement.