Decision not to try Downey will not be challenged

Donegal man will not face trial for Hyde Park bombings

Lady Justice Hallett: said right of appeal to the court of appeal existed. Photograph:   Nick Ansell/PA Wire

Lady Justice Hallett: said right of appeal to the court of appeal existed. Photograph: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

Fri, Jul 18, 2014, 01:01

The British government will not challenge the decision not to try John Downey for the Hyde Park bombings even though the attorney general who made the decision has since been replaced, Northern

Secretary Theresa Villiers has said.

In the report, Lady Justice Hallett said a right of appeal to the court of appeal existed following a decision by a judge to stay any prosecution because an abuse of process had taken place.

“However, providing that the judge has correctly applied the legal principles (which Mr Justice Sweeney did in the Downey case), the court of appeal will only overturn the stay if it was a decision that no judge could reasonably have come to.

“That is a high threshold to cross. Simply because another judge or other judges might, or even would, have been likely to have come to a different conclusion is not sufficient to succeed in such an appeal,” the judge wrote.

Questioned about the report, Ms Villiers said the judge had acknowledged “that it might have been conceivable to mount an appeal, but these decisions are always made on the basis of whether there is a realistic prospect of success”.

The decision not to appeal the judgment was taken by the former attorney general Dominic Grieve, but he was replaced in this week’s cabinet reshuffle by Conservative MP Jeremy Wright.

Last night, a spokesman for the new attorney general said his predecessor had decided the matter could not be pursued and neither the Crown Prosecution Service nor Mr Wright “has any plans to reconsider the decision in this case”.

Transparent

Accepting the criticisms made by the judge, Ms Villiers said it “would have been far better if I, and my predecessors, had been more transparent about the way” in which the OTR scheme had operated.

However, she said, Lady Justice Hallett was “very clear that this did not stop police investigations”, “files were not closed as a result” while “neither politicians nor officials interfered inappropriately with the administration of justice”.

However, she said the North’s First Minister, Peter Robinson, was “right to say that the report has some pretty devastating criticisms of how the scheme was run” during its 12 years before it ended.

Nevertheless, she is not to withdraw the letters but “where errors are made they will be corrected”, she told The Irish Times.

Action will be taken over coming months to heed the Hallett recommendations, including the need to ensure that the possibility of prosecutions is not jeopardised by the existence of the letters.