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Hyde Park IRA bomb families refused legal aid to prosecute John Downey

Families of those killed in the 1982 IRA Hyde Park Bomb have been denied legal aid to bring their own prosecution against convicted IRA man John Downey.

Mr Downey (65) was accused of murdering four soldiers and injuring 31 in the July 1982 bombing.

The dead were 23-year-old Anthony Daly, 19-year-old Simon Tipper, another 19-year-old Jeffrey Young, and 36-year-old Roy Bright.

Seven horses were also killed and another that was injured in the blast, Sefton, was made a national hero.

In 2014 the case against him collapsed after it was revealed he received a letter of comfort in 2007 saying he was not wanted by any UK police force.

More: OTR letters 'possibly unlawful' Westminster inquiry has found

Last year the families of those killed launched a legal campaign to take their own private prosecution against Mr Downey, but were refused funding.

However, a High Court judge ordered a review into the that decision saying there could be a "benefit to the public" to have Mr Downey stand trail.

On Thursday, The Daily Mail reported that the Legal Aid Agency for England and Wales had again refused the request.

The agency admitted that there was a "significant" interest to the public to take a case but the costs of funding the families’ case was "not proportionate to the benefits".

Mark Tipper, the brother of Trooper Tipper, told the paper: "This just causes further pain. The man we want to stand in court and answer for his actions was set free because of mistakes by our Government departments. The fact that another Government agency won’t pick up the baton is another slap in the face to all of us."

Matthew Jury, of law firm McCue and Partners, which represents the families, added: "The state is willing to spend millions to investigate and prosecute UK veterans – many for actions they took combating terrorism.

"Yet, when it comes to the murder of four British soldiers, the Legal Aid Agency’s position is that there isn’t enough public benefit to warrant the cost of bringing their alleged killer to trial. This begs the question, when it comes to justice, is a soldier's life worth less?"

The on the run scheme process, agreed between Sinn Fein and the last Labour government, saw letters sent to republicans informing them they were not being sought by the authorities in the UK.

Police were asked to review the evidence to assess if they were either wanted or not wanted at that particular point in time.

Those who were not being actively pursued due to a lack of sufficient evidence received a letter from the government informing them of this.

Details of the scheme emerged after the collapse of a case against Mr Downey after he received such a letter in error.

The Belfast Telegraph has contacted the Legal Aid Agency and McCue and Partners for a comment.

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