The BBC are reporting that John Downey who was arrested and charged with killing four soldiers in the 1982 IRA Hyde Park bombing will not be prosecuted because he was given a guarantee he would not face trial.
Downey was arrested in 2013 at Gatwick whilst en route to Greece.
From the BBC:
..over the course of legal argument, he asked the Old Bailey to halt the prosecution – saying he had received a clear written assurance from the government that he would not be tried.
He cited an official letter he had received 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 said his alleged offences had been categorised as one of the “on-the-run” cases that would no longer be pursued in the light of progress in the peace process.
In his judgement halting the case, Mr Justice Sweeney said Mr Downey had received an assurance in 2007 that he would not face criminal charges, despite the fact that police in Northern Ireland knew he was still wanted by Scotland Yard.
The Crown Prosecution Service had argued that the assurance was given in error – but the judge said it amounted to a “catastrophic failure” that misled the defendant. A trial would therefore be an abuse of executive power.
Unsurprisingly the decision was welcomed by Sinn Fein’s Francie Molloy but castigated by Tom Elliott and Peter Robinson. The most interesting response, however, came from Peter Hain:
“I was astonished to hear that this prosecution had been launched in the first place, because he had received a letter from the Northern Ireland Office after painstaking investigations into whether the evidence still existed to prosecute him as a suspect for this crime and he received a letter saying he was in the clear.
“This was a critical part of the peace deal that has brought Northern Ireland from horror and evil to peace and hope and the idea that it could be unravelled in his case was astonishing to me.”
Tom Elliott’s response was that it was an “appalling indictment of Peter Hain and the past Labour government in their behind-the-scenes dealings”.
Gradually some of the side deals agreed by the last government are coming out. This from the government which changed the law to allow prosecution of Nazi war criminals from many years before; proclaimed its “ethical foreign policy” and whose leader described himself as a “pretty straight sort of guy.” It leaves one wondering what other side deals and assurances were offered, who knew what and when and especially if any unionists knew anything of these deals. Finally: if the public had known of these sorts of deals with both the Belfast and St. Andrews Agreements would we have agreed to the deal in the first place.