UK & World News

  • 25 February 2014, 20:01

Hyde Park Blast: Families 'Let Down' By Ruling

The families of the soldiers killed in the Hyde Park IRA bomb blast have criticised Northern Ireland police's "monumental blunder" after an attempt to prosescute suspect John Downey failed.

Downey, 62, of County Donegal, will not face trial at the Old Bailey because he received a "letter of assurance" that he would not face a criminal court.

He had been wanted by the Metropolitan Police for more than 30 years, but officers were unaware Mr Downey - who denies involvement - and dozens of other terrorist suspects had been promised they would not be arrested because of the Northern Ireland peace process.

Police in Northern Ireland have now said they were wrong to make those assurances.

After the ruling by a judge that the prosecution could not go ahead, relatives of the four soldiers killed in the 1982 attack, said in a statement: "It is with great sadness and bitter disappointment that we have received the full and detailed judgment and that a trial will now not take place.

"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 (PSNI)."

Career soldier Lieutenant AnthonyDaly, then 23, died alongside three other members of his regiment the Blues and Royals, part of the Household Cavalry, when a bomb packed with wire nails and hidden in a parked car was detonated as they passed along South Carriage Drive in London.

Chris Daly - former major in the Blues and Royals - spoke angrily about being "let down" by the authorities, adding there was evidence to suggest the PSNI discovered its error but twice failed to rectify the problem, or inform the province's director of public prosecutions.

He said: "It stems very directly to the issuing of the letter Downey has in his possession where the Government has given him assurance he will not be prosecuted.

"And therefore how did Downey come into possession of this letter?

"It transpires the PSNI issued this letter to Downey in July 2007, thinking that he was not wanted either in Northern Ireland or by any other police force in the United Kingdom.

"This is despite the fact that three months earlier in April the same team within PSNI knew that Downey was wanted by the Metropolitan Police, on the police national computer, so the letter was issued in error.

"A year later this error was flagged up by the PSNI but nothing was done about it.

"Why wasn't something done about it?

"Then a year later, in 2009, again the error of the issuing of the letter was recognised but nothing was done about it."

Mr Daly, who was 18 when his brother died, is now asking for an apology for the victims' families from the police force and a full investigation into what went wrong.

He said the fact Downey would be returning to a normal life was "a torment" for the families left behind, for whom the grief of loss would never end.

The PSNI apologised and accepted "full responsibility" for the botched prosecution.

Northern Ireland Chief Constable Matt Baggott apologised to the families, saying: "I deeply regret these failings, which should not have happened."

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said the PSNI should reflect on "the serious error".

President of the Association of Chief Police Officers Sir Hugh Orde, who was chief constable of Northern Ireland at the time of the error, said: "It is a matter of great personal regret that a crucial oversight was made by a senior officer which resulted in erroneous information being sent to Mr Downey by the Northern Ireland Office and thus prejudicing the current indictment."

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