LONDON (AFP) — A court ruled Wednesday that a convicted member of the Irish Republican Army is liable for a nail-bomb attack that killed four mounted British soldiers in a London park.
The High Court in London ruled that John Downey was an “active participant” in the July 1982 Hyde Park attack, which provided one of the most enduring images of the “Troubles.”
The nail-bomb cut down the military horses and their riders as they headed to Queen Elizabeth II’s Buckingham Palace residence for the Changing of the Guard ceremony.
One horse that survived its injuries, Sefton, became a national hero as the public tracked his recovery. He returned to duties with the same rider he had on the day of the attack.
Downey’s criminal trial controversially collapsed in 2014. Judge Amanda Yip’s ruling in this civil case clears the way for him to face a damages claim from families of the victims.
“This was a deliberate, carefully planned attack on members of the military,” said the judge at the end of the first phase of the case.
“I have found that the defendant was an active participant in the concerted plan to detonate the bomb, with the intent to kill or at least to cause serious harm to members of the Household Cavalry.”
‘Justice has prevailed’
Downey, from County Donegal, northwest Ireland, was convicted of IRA membership in the 1970s. While he took no part in the civil trial, he denied any involvement in the attack in writing.
He is currently being held in a Northern Ireland prison ahead of his criminal prosecution in a separate attack that killed two Ulster Defense Regiment soldiers in 1972.
In 2014, he walked free when the case against him collapsed after it emerged that prosecutors had assured him in an amnesty letter that he would not face trial.
The amnesty appeared in one of 228 “comfort letters” sent out to militants as part of negotiations to preserve the peace brokered in Northern Ireland’s 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
Some 3,500 people were killed in over 30 years of violence between republicans who wanted a united Ireland, loyalists in favor of union with Britain, and the security forces.
No date has been set for the second phase of the hearing, in which the damages will be awarded.
But lawyers for Sarah-Jane Young, whose father Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young was one of those killed, said Wednesday’s ruling was a victory for the “forgotten victims” of the conflict.
“Yesterday, many responsible for the most awful acts of terrorism on British soil were living out their days in peaceful retirement, believing they would never be held to account for their crimes,” said Young’s lawyer, Matthew Jury.
“But justice has prevailed,” he told reporters.
© Agence France-Presse
by Phil HAZLEWOOD