Hyde Park bomb trial 'blunder', 'joke' jail terms and Man United's 'Greek tragedy'

The bodies of horses under blankets after the Hyde Park bombing Image copyright PA

Many papers capture the outrage of the families of the victims of the 1982 Hyde Park bombing, after the trial of a suspect collapsed.

A "monumental blunder" by police had allowed convicted IRA member John Downey to receive a letter assuring him he would not be prosecuted, reports the Daily Telegraph, explaining that a judge ruled that to renege on that would undermine trust in British justice.

The Times relives the car bomb attack - "one of the most cruel and destructive the IRA had devised" - which was triggered as soldiers from the Household Cavalry rode past. "A blast ripped through the car, blew men and horses into the air and sent a shower of deadly shrapnel flying," it says.

Four troopers died and seven horses were destroyed. David Jones, in the Mail, visits Mr Downey's neighbours in Donegal and describes a "macabre irony" that he has developed a hobby rearing horses. Mr Downey has always denied involvement in the attack.

"How many others evaded justice?" wonders the Telegraph, noting that the Old Bailey was told 187 suspected IRA members received such letters. Offering such amnesty was an attempt to ensure Northern Ireland's peace process did not stall after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, says the Daily Mirror, but in Mr Downey's case it "went wrong" because police failed to notice a warrant was outstanding for his arrest.

"What this affair has done is to expose another of the many shabby compromises and secret deals that were thought necessary to bring the IRA into the political process," says the Telegraph in its leader column.

For the Independent's David McKittrick: "The details of the scheme which has now come to light will add volume to the refrain from Unionists that Sinn Fein has managed to negotiate many unfair advantages from the peace process, some of them hammered out behind closed doors."

'Joke' sentence

A disturbing set of CCTV stills - showing a man being knocked to the ground by a punch that eventually killed him - is used by the Daily Mail to illustrate how Andrew Young's "good citizen act" of challenging a cyclist for riding on the pavement ended in his death.

He was punched by the cyclist's friend, Lewis Gill, who on Tuesday was jailed for four years after admitting manslaughter. The victim's mother is quoted describing the sentence as an "absolute joke".

"Four years for ending a life isn't justice when the killer is likely to be back on the streets before serving even that long," says the Daily Mirror. It runs through similar "short jail terms" for the "one-punch killings" of a Royal Marine and an off-duty police officer, saying that campaigners want Britain to follow the lead of New South Wales, Australia, by introducing a minimum eight-year prison term for such offences.

In its opinion column, the Daily Express says: "British courts have again failed to adequately punish a violent thug."

Taxman's winning streak

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It's been a good week for the taxman, it seems. The Daily Express reports that former N-Dubz rapper Dappy coughed up more than £140,000 to HM Revenue and Customs to wipe out a debt and avoid bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, HMRC has avoided having to pay a hefty VAT rebate to Freemasons after a judge dismissed a case brought by the United Grand Lodge of England, according to the Telegraph. The lodge had argued that as each of its 250,000 members pays at least £14 a year into Freemasonry's "Grand Charity", it should have been entitled to a rebate on 20 years' of subscriptions.

However, the paper says, the judge ruled it was not "wholly philanthropic" because only between 25% and 30% of its charitable donations go to causes with no Masonic connection.

Meanwhile, the papers are digesting news that another tax tribunal has declared that - in England - the game of bridge cannot be considered a sport for tax purposes. As a result, says the Express: "English tournaments are 20% more expensive than those in Scotland, Wales and the rest of Europe because players won't be spared VAT on group subscriptions, like athletes."

Its writer, Simon Edge, introduces readers to the quirks of a game that has attracted devotees as varied as actor Omar Sharif (above), billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett and "members of the band Radiohead", including the complicated bidding process that's the source of many a row between playing partners.

Harry Mount in the Telegraph sums this up by saying: "A game? It's mortal combat." He admits: "I'm an amateur player and I still don't understand half the jargon that's flung across the green baize after dinner."

So, says Mount, for the game's intensely competitive aficionados: "To be demoted beneath darts players is humiliation indeed."

United's 'Greek tragedy'

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"Clueless, aimless and hopeless," is the headline to the Daily Telegraph's sport section, below a picture of Manchester United manager David Moyes and his coaches, Steve Round and Phil Neville.

It refers to the team's performance in the 2-0 Champions League defeat at Greek side Olympiakos, which was a "Greek tragedy" as far as the Times is concerned. The Mirror is even more scathing, labelling United's stars "Greek clods".

"That's Gunner cost you," is the Express's take. It points out that the scorer of the second goal, Joel Campbell, is on loan to the Athens side from Arsenal.

The Independent hears from former Old Trafford midfielder Roy Keane, who says the team urgently needs "an injection of quality". But the Sun - headline "Mousacka" - reckons Moyes is on borrowed time, saying fans called for his head during the defeat.

For Paul Chronnell, writing in the Guardian, Moyes must "be brave" to turn the tie around in the second leg, rather than adopting the "safety-first tone" sounded in Athens.

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