Republic of Ireland news

Judge permits John Downey to fight extradition in UDR murders case

John Downey at the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin on Wednesday. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA
Cate McCurry, PA

JOHN Downey has been granted leave to appeal against the decision to extradite him to Northern Ireland.

The 67-year-old, whose trial for the IRA's Hyde Park bombing collapsed in controversy five years ago, is wanted by prosecutors over the murders of two UDR soldiers in 1972.

Downey was arrested at his home in Creeslough, Co Donegal, last October under a European arrest warrant after authorities in Northern Ireland determined they had sufficient evidence to charge him with the murders of Lance Corporal Alfred Johnston (32) and Private James Eames (33).

The soldiers were killed in a car-bomb attack in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, in August 1972.

Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly said on Wednesday that she granted the appeal to test whether it is an abuse of process to return him to Northern Ireland.

READ MORE:

In 2013 Downey was charged with murdering four Royal Household Cavalrymen in a bombing in London's Hyde Park in 1982.

He was tried at the Old Bailey in 2014 but the case collapsed after it was revealed he had received a written assurance from former prime minister Tony Blair's government that he was not actively wanted by the authorities.

The letter was allegedly issued under the terms of the controversial On The Runs scheme.

The High Court previously heard claims that Downey's fingerprints were found on adhesive tape on a battery pack used in the Enniskillen attack.

The court was told the tape was lost for about two years.

It was also alleged that police in the UK attempted to fabricate photofit evidence using a picture taken from Downey's house.

Garnet Orange SC, for Downey, previously told the court there were "credible attempts" to "fabricate visual identification evidence" in relation to the 1982 offences.

The court was told members of An Garda Síochána "unlawfully" removed pictures of Downey from his home and passed them to the authorities in the UK.

These pictures, Mr Orange said, were used to create an image of Downey as a suspect in the Hyde Park bombing.

Mr Orange told the court on Wednesday: "There are questions raised regarding the role of members of An Garda Síochána and also the strange reality that the evidence obtained against the respondent was obtained by catastrophic failures on part of various Northern Ireland authorities who are seeking the extradition of Mr Downey in order to prosecute him.

"There is a larger picture that simply cannot be ignored and this is one that must be dealt with in the context of whether public interest is best served in the surrender of Mr Downey.

"For instance, the trial in the UK in 2014 was stopped on the grounds it would be contrary to public interest if it was allowed to proceed.

"It's hard to see how the public interest could really be any different to the public interest that the applicant raises."

He told the court if a member of the public were made aware of the current court matters they would have "grave concerns" as to whether public interest has been served.

"The public interest is probably best served by the public having confidence in the integrity of the extradition process, particularly where the person is an Irish citizen, a man in his late sixties, being prosecuted for matters which are historic.

"The only bodies who stand to benefit from the catastrophic failures are the very bodies who caused the catastrophic failures.

"The reality is, even if he were convicted of these offences, the maximum period of time he would serve would be two years.

"That is something that cannot be ignored."

Downey remains on continuing bail.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Republic of Ireland news

Today's horoscope

Horoscope


See a different horoscope: