PSNI accepts ‘full responsibility’ for trial collapse

Chief constable Matt Baggott says he deeply regrets police failings

Chief constable Matt Baggott apologised to the families of the victims and survivors of the Hyde Park atrocity.

Chief constable Matt Baggott apologised to the families of the victims and survivors of the Hyde Park atrocity.

 

Police in Northern Ireland have accepted “full responsibility” for failures resulting in the collapse of the John Downey prosecution.

Chief constable Matt Baggott apologised to the families of the victims and survivors of the Hyde Park atrocity.

“I wish to apologise to the families of the victims and survivors of the Hyde Park atrocity. I deeply regret these failings, which should not have happened,” he said.

“We are currently carrying out a check of these cases to ensure the accuracy of information processed by the PSNI.”

Former chief constable of Northern Ireland and current president of the Association of Chief Police Officers Sir Hugh Orde said it was a matter of “great personal regret” to him that a crucial oversight led to John Downey being given a false assurance that he was not wanted by British police over the IRA Hyde Park attack.

“I accept the findings of the court today, which have been reached following Mr Justice Sweeney’s consideration of a long and complex chain of events stretching back over 30 years, including decisions made in the context of a delicate and, at times, turbulent peace process in Northern Ireland and the policing and judicial landscape that adapted in tandem with that process,” he said.

“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.”

Mr Orde, who was chief constable in Northern Ireland between 2002 and 2009, went on: “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.

“I am informed that the PSNI is making sure that their systems cannot allow such a grave error to happen again and they will refer themselves to the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman for investigation.

“Nevertheless, 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.”

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

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has said police in Northern Ireland should reflect on “the serious error” following the collapse of the Downey prosecution.

She said the Government does not support amnesties for people wanted in connection with terrorist offences.

“The PSNI will wish to reflect on lessons learned from this case and the circumstances that led to the serious error which occurred,” she said.

PA