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Peter Robinson demands judicial inquiry

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson indicated he was prepared to resign unless there was a judicial inquiry into the collapse of the John Downey case, saying:

"I have to say quite frankly that I am not prepared to be the first minister of a government that is kept in the dark on matters that are relevant to what we are doing."

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Attorney General: It was right Downey was charged

Ahead of statement in the Commons the Attorney General has said that it was 'right' John Downey was charged for the 1982 IRA Hyde Park bombing.

Before he was charged my consent was sought, as the law requires, for him to face a charge of causing an explosion. I gave that consent.

I believed then that it was right to do so and I remain of the same view today.

The allegations faced by Mr Downey were of the utmost seriousness. The bombing was an attempt by the Provisional IRA to bring their terrorist campaign to London and to attack armed forces personnel who were on ceremonial duties.

Whatever the circumstances in which the letter had been sent, and it is now clear that its assurances were wrongly given, it is right that the matter should be tested in court.

Neither I nor the CPS were prepared to accept that the letter and the circumstances in which it had been given were such as to automatically prevent Mr Downey's prosecution.

– Dominic Grieve, Attorney General

The case collapsed after it was revealed Mr Downey had received a letter in 2007 saying he would not face prosecution.

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Victim's brother 'devastatingly let down' by failed case

The brother of a cavalry trooper killed in the Hyde Park IRA bomb blast has criticised the Police Service of Northern Ireland for their "monumental blunder" and said he felt "devastatingly let down" by the failed prosecution.

Chris Daly's brother Lieutenant Denis Daly died as a result of the 1982 Hyde Park bombing. Credit: ITV News

Career soldier Lieutenant Denis Daly, 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 on July 20 1982.

Chris Daly, a former major in the Blues and Royals, said: "The fact the judgment determines the trial will now not takes place fills the families with immense anger, frustration and disappointment.

"I think everyone is eager to get to the bottom of what went wrong."

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How the Hyde Park bombing inquiry unfolded

On July 20, 1982, a car bomb left in South Carriage Drive killed the soldiers as they rode through Hyde Park in central London to the changing of the guard.

The explosion killed Roy Bright, Dennis Daly, Simon Tipper and Jeffrey Young and injured other members of the Royal Household Cavalry. Seven horses were also killed as the soldiers travelled from their barracks to Buckingham Palace.

Forensic teams work at the scene of the 1982 bombing. Credit: Press Association

The investigation into the bombing led police to Downey, through fingerprints on parking tickets and a description given by witnesses of two men carrying out reconnaissance in the area before the attack.

An arrest warrant was issued, but it was decided not to seek Downey's extradition from the Irish Republic in 1989, in part due to the lack of strong evidence against him, the court was told.

Then in 2007, Downey received assurance he was not at risk of prosecution as part of a scheme run by the Northern Ireland police.

Despite regularly travelling to the UK and Northern Ireland since then, in May last year he was arrested at Gatwick Airport en route to Greece and charged. He "strenuously" denied the murder of four British soldiers and causing an explosion.

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Orde: Force under my command failed bombing victims

The former Chief Constable of Northern Ireland Sir Hugh Orde has "apologised unreservedly" to the families of the Hyde Park bombing victims after they were told suspect John Downey would not face prosecution.

He said in a statement: “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.

Former Chief Constable of Northern Ireland Sir Hugh Orde. Credit: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire/Press Association Images

“As chief constable, I worked at the head of a team of very hardworking officers. While no organisation is immune from errors, it has become apparent recently that a very serious error was made in dealing with Mr Downey’s case, which is a matter I regret very deeply...

"...My mind is first and foremost with the families affected by the actions of those who perpetrated the bomb in Hyde Park in 1982, whose dignity in their grief has always been impressive. If a force under my command has failed them, as it seems it did, then I apologise to them unreservedly.”

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Downey 'false assurance' was 'downright reckless'

At an earlier hearing, Henry Blaxland, QC, warned of the political ramifications in Northern Ireland of pursuing a trial against John Downey in such circumstances, saying the false assurance he received was "not just negligent, it was downright reckless".

John Downey arrives at the Old Bailey on February 21. Credit: ITN

Convicted IRA member Downey, 62, of County Donegal, had received a "letter of assurance" in 2007 when in fact there was an outstanding warrant against him.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Sweeney said there were "very particular circumstances" of the case.

The public interest in prosecution was "very significantly outweighed" by the public interest in ensuring that "executive misconduct does not disrepute", and in "holding officials of the state to promises they have made in the full understanding of what is involved in the bargain".

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Families 'devastatingly let down' over Downey ruling

Reacting today, relatives of the four soldiers killed in the 1982 Hyde Park bombing released 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 judgement lies at the feet of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

The end result is that the opportunity for the full chain of those terrible events will never be put in the public domain for justice to be seen to be done."

– Families of Hyde Park Bombing victims

They continued: "Our men signed up to serve their country in good faith, yet now it seems that that faith was not supported by those within certain areas of authority.

"The families now seek a degree of accountability for this catastrophic failure."

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Case collapses after Downey given 'false assurance'

The prosecution of Hyde Park bombing suspect John Downey has collapsed after being given a false assurance that he was not wanted by British police over the IRA attack, it can now be reported.

IRA member Downey, 62, of County Donegal, had received a "letter of assurance" in 2007 when in fact there was an outstanding warrant against him.

File photo dated 20 July, 1982, of a police photographer at the scene of the car bomb. Credit: PA News/PA Wire

Despite regularly travelling to the UK and Northern Ireland since then, in May last year he was arrested at Gatwick Airport en route to Greece and charged. He "strenuously" denied the murder of four British soldiers and causing an explosion.

The judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, threw the case out after Downey's lawyer successfully argued at the eleventh hour that the defendant should not go on trial at the Old Bailey.

The legal wrangle raises questions with the Police Service of Northern Ireland which, the court heard, knew about the UK arrest warrant for Downey but did nothing to correct the error of 2007.

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