Extracts from judge's ruling on Hyde Park bombing case

The prosecution of a man accused of killing four soldiers in the 1982 Hyde Park bombing has collapsed because he was given an assurance in error that he was not wanted by British police.

The judge said it amounted to a "catastrophic failure" that had misled the defendant. A trial would therefore be an abuse of executive power.

Returning his judgement on the case of John Downey, Mr Justice Sweeney said: "When the defendant received his [2007 assurance] letter he was entitled to and did believe that it was the product of careful and competent further work, and that there had been a genuine and correct change of mind about him - particularly given that he was a supporter of the peace process.

"However, that assurance was wholly wrong... thus, as the prosecution conceded, the defendant was wholly misled.

"Clearly, and notwithstanding [the Good Friday Agreement], the public interest in ensuring that those who are accused of serious crime should be tried is a very strong one with the plight of the victims and their families firmly in mind.

"However, in the very particular circumstances of this case it seems to me that it is very significantly outweighed in the balancing exercise by the overlapping public interests in ensuring that executive misconduct does not undermine public confidence in the criminal justice system and bring it into disrepute, and the public interest in holding officials of the state to promises they have made in full understanding of what is involved in the bargain.

"Hence I have concluded that this is one of those rare cases in which, in the particular circumstances, it offends the court's sense of justice and propriety to be asked to try the defendant."

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