Reports that John Anthony Downey, 61, from County Donegal, has been charged with the murder of four members of the Royal Household Cavalry in the 1982 Provisional IRA bombing in Hyde Park, London – he was arrested on Sunday at Gatwick Airport – has prompted a statement from Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly, MLA and member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board. From the Sinn Féin statement [added emphasis throughout]
[Gerry Kelly] “John Downey is a member of Sinn Féin and a long time supporter of the Peace Process. The decision to arrest and charge him in relation to IRA activities in the early 1980s is vindictive, unnecessary and unhelpful. It will cause anger within the Republican community.
“Clearly if John Downey had been arrested and convicted previously he would have been released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
“As part of the Weston Park negotiation the British Government committed to resolving the position of OTRs. John Downey received a letter from the NIO in 2007 stating that he was not wanted by the PSNI or any British Police Force. Despite travelling to England on many occasions now six years on he finds himself before the courts on these historic charges.
“This development represents bad faith and a departure from what was previously agreed by both governments.
“John Downey needs to be released and allowed to return home to his family.”
Proposed draft legislation by the British Government to deal with this specific issue as referred to in paragraph 20 of the Weston Park accord was formally withdrawn by the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Hain MP, on 11 January 2006. The draft legislation, the Northern Ireland (Offences) Bill, had been opposed by the majority of the Northern Ireland Assembly parties and the Secretary of State was compelled to withdraw the legislation when the only supporting party, Sinn Féin, could not accept certain aspects of the proposed legislation. [added emphasis]
…Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan pointed to legal authorities which set out that an abuse of process depended on an unequivocal guarantee of immunity being given by those bringing the criminal case.
“We do not consider that the evidence indicates any basis for the conclusion that Mr Kelly was a representative of those responsible for the conduct of the investigation or prosecutions,” the judge said.
“We further agree that in any event the statement attributed to Mr Kelly, who did not give evidence, did not contain any representation, never mind one which could be said to be unequivocal for the purpose of this test.”
From today’s BBC report
Sue Hemming, head of special crime and counter-terrorism at the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “The Metropolitan Police Service has been investigating the explosion near Hyde Park in London which occurred on 20 July 1982.
“We have reviewed the evidence gathered and authorised them to charge John Anthony Downey, 61, of County Donegal, Ireland.
“It is alleged that Downey is responsible for the improvised explosive device contained in a car parked in South Carriage Drive, SW1, London, which resulted in the deaths of four members of the Household Cavalry, Blues and Royals, as they travelled on their daily route from their barracks to Buckingham Palace.”