IRA terrorist John Downey has been ordered to pay £715,000 in damages to the mother and daughter of a soldier murdered in the Hyde Park bombing 38 years ago.
Sarah Jane Young, the daughter of Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young, was forced to sue Downey in the High Court after his criminal trial was thrown out in 2014 when he produced a so-called 'comfort letter' that gave him an effective amnesty from prosecution.
Lawyers for Ms Young, who was just four years old at the time, praised "Sarah Jane's long brave fight" for justice and said they will now pursue Downey for compensation. Any money recovered will go to military veterans' charities.
However, Ms Young, now 42, will now take the case to the Court of Appeal after the judge rejected her claim for further damages for psychiatric injury caused by hearing the car bomb blast and then seeing Household Cavalry soldiers returning covered in blood and with nails embedded in their flesh and tunics. The court heard she had suffered a "troubled childhood" including taking an overdose of pills at the age of 14.
Mr Justice Spencer also refused to award 'exemplary' damages, which could run into millions of pounds, explaining that only a change in the law by Parliament or the Supreme Court would allow 'substantial' damages in terrorism cases. That decision will also be appealed.
Ms Young said: “We were told throughout the early years of our campaign that there wasn’t a sliver of a chance of bringing the criminals to justice. No legal aid. No Government support in spite of their promises. So there is a sense of relief and achievement that we’ve got this far. But there is going to be more to come – it’s now time for our politicians to wake up and show support for all the innocent victims of terror.”
Mark Tipper, 60, whose brother was killed in the bombing, said: "This may sound like a lot of money but the judge has failed to recognise the psychological damage done to Sarah Jane by this vile attack. This judgment won't bother Downey. He hasn't gone through any trauma."
Downey was declared an “active participant” in the bombing – his fingerprints were found on two parking tickets left in the bomb car – after a trial in the High Court last year. In the attack in July 1982, four soldiers died and 31 people were injured in one of the worst atrocities committed by the IRA in mainland Britain.
Downey, 68, now faces bankruptcy. He lives in a £300,000 bungalow with its own private beach in County Donegal, which he transferred into his wife's name after the civil action began .
Ms Young's solicitor Matthew Jury, of McCue & Partners, said after yesterday's judgment: "Sarah Jane's long brave fight has never been about anything other than the rights of her fellow victims and survivors of terrorism."
He said the families of victims of terrorism were often "irrevocably damaged by physical and mental injury, by the loss of loved ones and all too frequently, the denial of justice".
Mr Jury said the case would now go to the Court of Appeal to try to change the law so that "Sarah Jane may leave a legacy that will strengthen and serve the rights of all victims of terrorism".
Mr Justice Spencer said awarding exemplary damages would require an extension of the law which would be “for either Parliament or the higher courts, and probably the Supreme Court”.
He said it was the first time the courts in England and Wales have considered the issue of exemplary – or punitive – damages in the context of a civil claim arising from a terrorist attack.
The judge also declined to award damages for psychiatric harm explaining that while a wife "having seen off her husband on horseback and then hearing an explosion and seen the aftermath, would naturally be terrified that her husband was involved … the same is not true, necessarily, of a four-year-old".
He added: "My interpretation of the evidence suggests that it never occurred to this four-year-old's mind at all that her father might have been injured, or killed, or involved at all in what she had heard and seen."
L/Cpl Young was just 19 when he died along with Squadron Quartermaster Corporal Roy Bright, 36, Lieutenant Dennis Daly, 23, and Trooper Simon Tipper, 19. They were killed by a car bomb as they rode through Hyde Park to attend the Changing of the Guard. Seven horses had to be put down and another horse, Sefton, survived terrible injuries.
Mr Justice Spencer awarded £715,207 to Ms Young, of which £535,000 will go to her mother.
Downey refused to play any part in the trial but filed a written defence denying any involvement in the attack.
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