Northern Ireland news

John Downey loses challenge against his extradition from the Republic over the 1972 Enniskillen bombing

John Downey at a previous hearing in Dublin. Picture by Donall Farmer/PA Wire.

A CO Donegal man wanted in Northern Ireland on suspicion of involvement in the murder of two soldiers has lost his latest challenge against his extradition over the 1972 bombing.

Authorities in the north are seeking to extradite John Downey (67) to face prosecution for the murder of two British soldiers as well as aiding and abetting the causing of an explosion on August 25, 1972.

UDR soldiers Alfred Johnston and James Eames were killed when a device exploded in a vehicle they were checking on the Irvinestown Road, Cherrymount, in Enniskillen.

Mr Downey (67) was arrested last November at his home address in Ards, Creeslough, Co Donegal on foot of a European Arrest Warrant.

The High Court in Dublin ordered Mr Downey’s extradition in March, and the Court of Appeal upheld that decision today.

He was previously accused of the murders of four soldiers in the 1982 IRA Hyde Park bombing.

Mr Downey's trial at the Old Bailey in London for the murders collapsed in 2014 when it emerged that he had received a so-called "on-the-runs" letter.

Giving judgment in the Court of Appeal today Mr Justice Michael Peart said the evidence against Mr Downey includes a fingerprint alleged to have been found on black insulating tape used in the 1972 bombing.

Mr Justice Peart said the subsequent prosecution of Mr Downey for the 1982 Hyde Park bombing, in which four soldiers and seven horses were killed, collapsed in February 2014 on the basis that it amounted to an abuse of process.

Crucial to the finding of an abuse of process was a "letter of comfort" dated July 20, 2007, which was provided, not only to Mr Downey but other "on the runs", Mr Justice Peart said.

The so-called “comfort letters", issued by the Tony Blair government, told republican paramilitaries they were not wanted for prosecution of crimes committed during the Troubles.

Mr Justice Peart said the letter, and the finding of an abuse of process in London, was “at the heart” of Mr Downey’s contention that he shouldn’t be extradited in relation to the 1972 bombing.

However, for the High Court to refuse surrender on the basis of an abuse of process, Mr Justice Peart said the abuse must exist in the processes of the High Court in the Republic, rather than in the prosecution of offences of the requesting state.

He noted that Mr Downey was already successful in having his prosecution in respect of the Hyde Park bombing "stayed" on the grounds of abuse of process.

That itself was clear evidence that in so far as Mr Downey wishes to challenge his prosecution for the 1972 offence on the basis of the comfort letter, it was a matter to be determined in the requesting state, "and not as part of the application here for his surrender".

President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Edwards said they agreed with their colleague's decision.

Counsel for Mr Downey, said an appeal would be lodged to the Supreme Court while their client remains on bail.

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