Editorial: Relief and sadness at award

The award of £350,000 to the estate of a man tortured by the British army more than 50 years ago represents final vindication after a long, courageous campaign for truth.

The tragedy is that Liam Holden, who died last year aged 68, was not in the High Court to hear the landmark verdict.

Mr Holden, then 18, was subjected to violent waterboarding techniques when members of the Parachute Regiment obtained a false confession to shooting Private Frank Bell in west Belfast in 1972.

He was also hooded and taken to a loyalist estate where soldiers put a gun to his head and said he would be shot if he did not admit to the murder.

Mr Holden said he agreed to a 'cock and bull story' about carrying out the shooting and became the last man in Northern Ireland sentenced to hang.

That death penalty was commuted to life imprisonment and it was not until 2012 that his conviction was finally quashed and he was able to clear his name.

He told, however, of continuing to suffer terrifying nightmares.

Awarded £1 million in compensation for the miscarriage of justice, he sued the Ministry of Defence for his treatment in military custody.

Mr Justice Rooney has now ruled that he was "exposed to humiliation and degradation and that the soldiers behaved in a high-handed, insulting, malicious and oppressive manner”.

Mr Holden's family expressed relief at the judgment but also sadness that he could not witness it.

They also expressed hope that it will shine a light on others still seeking answers, a wish the Belfast man had himself expressed before his death.

The case provides yet further evidence, were it needed, of wounds that remain raw more than five decades after events of the Troubles, as well as the thirst for truth and justice felt by many families.

The British government's legacy bill threatens to deny victims the right to see perpetrators held to account in court both in criminal prosecutions and civil cases.

An international delegation of lawyers has become the latest group to add their voice to those calling for the legislation to be scrapped.

The European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights said the Irish government should commit to taking an inter-state case in the European Court of Human Rights if it becomes law.

Ministers must now listen to those concerns and take the only responsible course of action.