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Hyde Park bomb case man's £50,000 legal aid bill - families denied funding

By Nick Lester, Press Association Political Staff

The legal aid bill of a convicted IRA man who walked free from court over London's Hyde Park bombing came to more than £50,000, official figures show.

The cost to taxpayers of John Downey's representation has emerged after the families of those killed in the 1982 blast - the 35th anniversary of which is marked later this month - were denied legal aid to bring their own prosecution against him.

Mr Downey was accused of murdering four soldiers and injuring 31 in the attack, which he denied.

The prosecution at the Old Bailey collapsed in 2014.

The case against the Co Donegal man was ended because government officials mistakenly sent him a letter in 2007, as part of a controversial On The Runs (OTRs) scheme, telling him he was no longer a wanted man.

In a written parliamentary question tabled in Parliament, the non-affiliated peer Lord Laird asked how much had been paid to Mr Downey's legal team.

Responding for the Government, Ministry of Justice spokesman Lord Keen of Elie said: "Anyone facing a crown court trial is eligible for legal aid, subject to a strict means test."

The figures showed that from May 2013 to December 2014 a total of £18,705.47 was paid to solicitors Birnberg Peirce Ltd, while his barristers Henry Blaxland QC and Mark J Summers received £20,089 and £12,966.79 respectively.

The overall sum came to £51,761.26.

PANews BT_P-d44c059d-6b33-4579-bd24-909ac4501373_I1.jpg
Dead horses and wrecked cars at the scene of an IRA bomb which exploded as the Household Cavalry was passing in Hyde Park, London, in 1982

The Household Cavalrymen of the Blues and Royals were riding through Hyde Park on their way to the Changing of the Guard when the car bomb left in South Carriage Drive went off on July 20 1982.

The explosion killed Squadron Quartermaster Corporal Roy Bright, 36, Lieutenant Dennis Daly, 23, Trooper Simon Tipper, 19, and Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young, 19.

Seven horses also died as the soldiers travelled from their barracks to Buckingham Palace. Another horse, Sefton, survived terrible injuries.

The carnage was followed less than two hours later by a second explosion in a Regent's Park bandstand which killed seven Royal Green Jackets bandsmen.

Having been turned down for legal aid assistance, the relatives of some of those killed in the Hyde Park attack have launched a campaign in a bid to raise funds to bring a private court action, the cost of which has been put at £650,000.

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