Prosecuting the Past: Cold War Conflict

Guest writer Carrie Twomey on the selective prosecution of the past. Is civil action the next stop for Hyde Park? The involvement of former RUC and PSNI Chief Superintendent Norman Baxter in the Omagh, McConville, & Downey cases raise questions about how the peace process is being undermined by those intent on continuing the conflict.

Any student of conflict resolution who is using the Northern Irish peace process as a model must now know fingers were crossed behind all backs throughout. One decade was spent fudging peace, the next is spent in a cold war policing the past for conflict recrimination.

Today, in the wake of the Downey judgement, we are treated to the ridiculous spectacle of the same fingers-crossed politicians who negotiated the process pretending they had no idea what was negotiated. The whole pantomime is a farce, made all the more ridiculous by the Cameron government's blasé blundering unravelling the peace via pure bigoted British ignorant idiocy, taken advantage of by home-grown bigots with axes to grind: the history of Ireland on endless repeat.

It is this hands-off approach of Cameron's that has allowed the strategy of a cold war fought via the past to expand: glimpsed like the tip of an iceberg in the hard-to-believe incompetence of the US-UK MLAT subpoenas of the Boston College archive and their predictable results. The Downey case exposes more of what's lurking below the surface.

Circumnavigating the Boundaries of Justice

When justice was not easily gained via criminal prosecutions in the Omagh bombing case, the legal strategy of launching civil action was pursued. This strategy uses the vehicle of criminal prosecutions — which have little to no chance of either a guilty verdict or a sentence longer than 2 years for anything pre-1998 —  to gather evidence, not for successful prosecution, but for future civil action.

As we saw in the Boston College subpoena case, the seeking of the archives was never about securing convictions:
[I]t has now emerged that, even if the tapes do not provide the proof beyond reasonable doubt required in a criminal case, they could be used in a civil action where proof is only on the balance of probabilities.

That is what happened in the case of the 1998 Omagh bombing.

In June 2009, some of the families of the 29 dead won a £1.6m civil action against four suspects who had not been convicted.

They did so using police evidence which was subpoenaed by their lawyers. Norman Baxter, a former RUC and PSNI Chief Superintendent who investigated the Omagh bombing, said the same thing was likely to happen again.

“Before the information can be used in a civil action the opportunities for criminal prosecution must be exhausted.” [emphasis added]

In reading reports about John Downey's case, it was quite interesting to see Norman Baxter as the leader of Operation Rapid, the PSNI squad tasked with looking at the strength of cases against OTRs. In Downey's case,
In a report, Acting Det Chief Insp Neal Graham told his superior, Det Chief Supt Howard [sic] Baxter, that Mr Downey was not wanted by PSNI, but further checks should be made as to whether Scotland Yard still wanted him.

But when Det Chief Supt Baxter reported to his superior, Assistant Chief Constable Peter Sheridan, three days later he said only that Mr Downey should be informed he was not wanted by PSNI and made no reference to the fact that he was still wanted over the Hyde Park atrocity.

When asked about the omission, on behalf of the court earlier this year, Det Chief Supt Baxter said only that there was no statutory requirement to supply further information beyond whether he was wanted by PSNI and Mr Downey was not considered to be on the run because he was not a resident of Northern Ireland. — Hyde Park IRA bombing: prosecution of suspect could have threatened peace process

Operation Rapid was one of Norman Baxter's responsibilities before he retired from the PSNI.

Revisiting Norman Baxter's 2009 testimony to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee hearing on the Omagh Bomb, we see a man unhappy with political 'tampering' of policing:

Q381 Lady Hermon: Am I not right, Mr Baxter and Mr McWilliams, that there is an absolutely fundamental principle within policing in Northern Ireland and that is operational independence. Could you just reconcile to me the evidence that you have given that you believe that there was a political policy in Northern Ireland dating back from 1994, I think you said, not just 1998, not just the date of the Agreement, are you really saying to me that the RUC were influenced by that policy made by politicians? Surely to goodness the RUC and the chief constables that they had maintained operational independence?

Mr Baxter: You see, you would have to be so naive to think that the Secretary of State, and his predecessors, sits in Stormont Castle and does not tamper with policing.

Q382 Lady Hermon: Tamper with policing?

Mr Baxter: Yes, I would use the word "tamper". One of my responsibilities before I retired was to conduct a review of on-the-runs, that is persons who are outside the jurisdiction. I can assure the Committee that there was an extremely unhealthy interest by officials in the Northern Ireland Office about prioritising individuals who were on the run and about ensuring that they were cleared to return to the North. That was done through—

Q383 Lady Hermon: Yes, but with the greatest respect, Mr Baxter, those were on-the-runs. We are talking here about—and again I will use the term—the mass murder of 29 people plus two unborn children, and are you really saying to us that despite all of those deaths, that somehow within the RUC they were influenced by politicians in investigating the bomb?

Mr Baxter: I am saying that you would have to be naive to believe that the Secretary of State and his officials, or her officials in the past, did not directly intervene in policing. I can give the Committee one example where Dr Mowlam rang a duty inspector when I was on duty—

Q384 Mrs Robinson: And let a certain person go free.

Mr Baxter: When Martin McGuinness was stopped, he telephoned her and she rang the police to get him released. I think you would be extremely naive to think that these things do not go on. I am not saying it is, "Chief constable, you have to do this," but it is a cultural or a nurturing sort of relationship so that policy is delivered in policing.

It seems Baxter has come round to the position — at least in relation to political tampering with policing — that what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

What exactly is Baxter's role in the last few years' push to prosecute the past, and where that fails, to push for civil suits? How in bed is the Cameron government with the Baxterites of Northern Ireland?

We know that Baxter was instrumental in the pursuit of Gerry Adams using the McConville family, and that resulted in the subpoenas of the Boston College archives.

Eamonn McCann took a look at Baxter's role in 'Getting Gerry Adams', and the cottage industry of former security force members — specifically ex RUC and Special Branch — who parlay their experience in Northern Ireland into lucrative government contracts. Baxter's subcontracting outfit is made up of a number of former RUC and PSNI officers, some of whom were also, coincidently enough, previously part of the HET.

Baxter's New Century subcontracting CEO, Tim Collins, was being wooed by the Tories for a role as a Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) candidate around the same time of the Serious Crime investigation that led to the US-UK MLAT request. It was claimed Cameron is 'a known admirer' of Collins; throughout 2010-2011 the Tories were looking for all the backing they could get for their Police Reform Act.

Protocol dictates that MLAT requests such as the BC subpoena are made through the Home Office. The PSNI couldn't just fire off a subpoena request to the US Department of Justice. This is possibly one reason why the NIO claimed to be surprised and embarrassed by the subpoenaing of the archive; certainly, the request of the archives should have made anyone with an ounce of sense at the NIO recoil in horror — not least because then Secretary of State Owen Paterson was praising the very same archive as a template to follow for potential truth commissions, and official decommissioning papers were in the process of being lodged in the same library.

To anyone with any real knowledge of the politics of Northern Ireland, subpoenaing the Boston College archives would be an act of pure madness that would fly in the face of the logic of the whole peace process. To a former RUC DCS nursing grievances like Baxter, however, the NIO refusal would just be more of the same political 'tampering' with policing he complained about in 2009 when he described what he perceived as the "extremely unhealthy interest by officials in the Northern Ireland Office about prioritising individuals who were on the run and about ensuring that they were cleared to return to the North."

Was an end run done by the PSNI investigators, who were following the Baxter template of using a criminal investigation to gather evidence for future civil action in order to circumnavigate 'political tampering', around the NIO and straight into the welcoming arms of key contacts at the Home Office?

Two months after the second subpoena was served, at the Tory Conference in 2011, Home Secretary Theresa May proudly introduced Colonel Collins as 'the first person to declare their intention to run as a Conservative candidate to become a police and crime commissioner'.

Collins would later withdraw his candidacy, such is the fickle nature of political backroom dealings, but that doesn't mean any quid pro quo wasn't followed through with.

How hard would it be, waiting in the long grass, for a respected former RUC/PSNI stalwart and his comrades of like mind to push against the political concessions made by the Sheridans and Ordes, Mowlams and Hains, and Powells and Blairs, using the easy door of instinctive and uninvolved British Tory bigotry, to police the past in revenge?

Or maybe it's all just coincidence.

The Good Friday Agreement and all the legislation that flowed from it, the years of processing peace, meant that the past was set aside in order to secure stability. One of the many bargains fudged was the decommissioning of IRA weapons in exchange for the amnesty-that-isn't-an-amnesty:
Northern Secretary Peter Hain today announced further steps in the “normalisation” of Ulster politics in the wake of the IRA’s decommissioning of arms. “This is not an amnesty,” he insisted.

“Nevertheless, the implementation of those proposals will be painful for many people. I fully understand this. But the government believes that it is a necessary part of the process of closing the door on violence forever.” (2005)

Now with the relative quiet of peace and stability, the past is being prosecuted in order to secure the politics of today's needs, and to settle old scores of long nurtured grievances. Short term political expediency trumps all, as it does every time. What treaty was ever written that wasn't meant to be immediately broken by the next political scoundrel who needs tomorrow's votes to stay in power? Yesterday's votes are as worthless as the treaties signed to secure them.

The problem for all concerned, the ordinary people who voted both for and against the GFA because they wanted the conflict to end, everyone, who in some way, no matter their politics, is a victim of the troubles, who grieves and hurts and was broken or cares for the broken, no one who was touched by the years of conflict is not a victim of them in some manner or other, are the political scoundrels who feed off that victimhood and passion and misery.

These same politicians made the peace deals, and wrote and passed the various GFA legislation that make prosecutions of the past a farce that constantly threatens to unravel the peace.

Today's political pursuit of the past is a constant undermining of the peace and an exploitative way of continuing the conflict as a cold war that nobody will ever win.

Further reading:

The state and Northern Ireland’s past: “Very powerful forces are at play in Mi5 and PSNI, C2 intelligence and we need to look at their whole issue of legacy and their alleged involvement in many multiple incidents that happened in which people were killed.

“They are hiding the policy objective that was collusion because it went so high. So in terms of the British Government, they need to protect the people who directed the agent handlers, the managers of the agent handlers because very quickly it goes up the food chair into government and cabinet office.”

Can the Past Be Policed? Lessons From the Historical Enquiries Team Northern Ireland

CAJ and the Pat Finucane Centre joint submission to the Committee of Ministers in relation to the supervision of cases concerning the actions of the security forces in NI (PDF)

Norman Baxter and the McConville case:


  1. Excellent and well presented post Carrie, the answer Norman Baxter gave Silvia Hermon to Q 381 "you see,you would have to be so naive to think that the secretary of state and his predecessors,sit in Stormont castle and does not tamper with policing " I and others would go as far as say that tampering with policing is far to mild a description of the machinations which went on at Stormont and Downining st, from Bloody Sunday, to the Dublin Monaghan bombings, to collusion and shoot to kill, Diplock courts, yes a cara tampering with policing is far to mild a description ..trampling all over policing ,human rights would be far more apt a description,and if truth be told we are still in the eye of the storm ,truth and justice for all here were the main victims of the gfa,we are a long way from putting the past behind us here, like the cesspit that this place is the polluted past will continue to bubble to the surface dragging us all backwards ,much to the delight of the nethanderals in the dup and the suits of MI5..

  2. what a mess, i dont know how u wade thru this stuff and stay sane carrie twomey, jesus will this place ever be right, this is what happens when u hav an agreement of doublespeak backed by international war criminals - blair clinton etc, the whole thing was is a load of doubletreblespeak shite.

  3. Insightful, after reading Robinsons threat to quit a prelude to round two with another political blackmail stunt sounding more like commander Pete of the 3rd force.

    Is it that the case collapsed or is he just unable to let go of the past that he and his sidekick Marty Mc are fond of reminding us off.

    It is obvious that he wants a transparent resolution as long as it is one sided.
    I doubt he would make the same rubbish threats if it was a loyalist case that collapsed.

    Showing his true colour justice for unionists and jail for republicans.

    Hopefully Peter keeps his word as all I can say to him is Auf wiedersehen Peter.

  4. Tain Bo,

    Peter has to quit. Thats what they (politicians do at election time, quit (stand down...))

    And if anyone is shocked at the latest revelations about secret deals, selected amnesty's...or whatever, what planet have you been living on for the last 16 odd years..?

  5. SF, drop your pants and bend over, for you are about to be screwed along with all the OTRs. That is what you get when you sit down with the brits/unionists. Idiots

  6. Frankie,

    you might be right but on this one I smell a rat it is not so much about standing down but standing up proclaiming he is a staunch loyalist.

    Crying wolf about secret deals is laughable as NI is a colossal secret dealing with the cover joke of power sharing which essentially means as long as the Unionists get there way all will appear normal.

    The sham seems to be unraveling definitely no shock or surprise there.

  7. Feel te love,

    Too funny but I think better advice would be to tell them it’s time to pull their pants up.

  8. Bog-roll worth more than any agreement with Brits/unionists. Marty and SF will earn their corn now, they better coz no1 dying for them and their careers any more!!!

  9. While I am of course biased, I think this is the best commentary piece I have seen on the matter. Needless to say it was written while I snored under the effects of a feed of Brandy.

  10. has anybody any idea what the criteria was for granting letters of absolution to some and not others?
    gerry mc geough and scotchy Kearny are persecuted for the past while 187 have been granted absolution. what's the criteria? free Scotchy Kearny now!

  11. TB
    I am afraid the time for pulling them up is long past. It would seem that SF are in a continuous state of being bent over and probed. Did nt that clown MMCG admit it recently when venting his frustration at unionists. We are about to witness the mammy and daddy of all screwovers in the coming days/weeks/months. LOL.

  12. Gerard,
    I have friends who would love to know what the criteria is?
    Kelly was the main channel to have your case heard for getting back lol.
    Before that, I think there were several senior Sinn Fein people who I won't name given the fact one has died.
    My guess and my friends guesses are it all depends on whether or not you support Sinn Fein.

    Yes Mackers a brilliant and insightful piece!

  13. Gerard,

    has anybody any idea what the criteria was for granting letters of absolution to some and not others?

    Simple, agree with SF & endorse the GFA.

    While not connected, it helps me understand. Both yourself and Raymond McCartney went on hunger strike for the same reasons, in the same prison and for the same organization.

    Raymond agreed with the SF leadership and is enjoying the pickings and people like yourself who fell out of favor with SF simply got shafted.

    Gerry McGeough et al. called the GFA for what it was and were exposing the myth behind SF and like you and countless others got shafted..

  14. Feel te love,

    you can’t blame the Brits for keeping SF in a perpetual state of probing after all that is where their brains are.
    As for Marty Mc he is always gurning about something.
    What will he do without his good friend 3rd force Pete?

  15. When I saw them again a few weeks later they said they had now sold their idea to Ian Paisley in a three hour meeting and he hadn't objected. They said they could accept the implementation of the unpopular understakings we had made under the Joint Declaration on the OTR's as long as Tony wrote to Paisley making it clear that these concession had been agreed during David Trimble's watch not theirs.

    Page 241 Johnathan Powels book 'Great Hatred, Little Room...

    Say's it all Tain Bo.. They are all pissing into the same pot (sometimes at the same time) while leaving everyone else without a pot to piss in..

  16. Gerard,

    The criterion is you get a letter if you confess your sins and swear Gerry Adams was never a sinner.
    Who knows with all the dirty deals?

  17. Feel te love totally agree a cara, Pete the punt is demanding that those letters be rescinded,which will be bad news for quisling $inn £eind for in fact it is the answer to Gerard Hodgins question and that is I think a control mechanism to keep people on board,Mc Geough and Kearny thrown to the wolves as a warning, Martybroy will have some squirming and more lying to do now, more so than usual, the rat who said he was not a position seeker yet spent a fortune running for the presidency of this country is about to feel how his mate Ian felt when the flat earthers in the dup start sniffing the air for blood to satisfy their sectarian followers come election time .

  18. Anthony,

    I agree with you as the piece is very insightful with a lot to digest. I just got sidetracked with 3RD Force Pete yapping about dirty deals.

  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. Frankie,

    spot on but now crossing streams and an over flowing piss pot being tossed out the window which of course lands on the people it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

  21. It's Win Win -

    If Peter Robinson does not get a full judicial inquiry he will leave by the side door and will not be missed like Paisley
    Is not missed-

    If Theresa Villiers and the Tory government does allow this inquiry to go ahead they will be seen as weak for giving into Robinson's threat-

  22. MH

    and SF (stoop even lower) will do what then?

  23. Mickybroy never mind the brits rolling over to Pete the punts threat ,what will your cronies do if those letters are rescinded and or he gets his judicial inquiry my guess is fuck all as usual,,,

  24. The problem is though Mickey these threats have worked time and time again, maybe not there and then but the next time something needed a negotiation. Intransigence has paid and paid again, to the extent the a Good Friday Agreement as negotiated is effectively dead

  25. wee prods missing all those guaranteed jobs they had and now their kids have had a decade of emigration and don't like the taste of it a bit. All I can say before the DUP spit their dummy out of the pram is....


  26. May I say on a more serious note, the refusal to 'move on' by everyone is the biggest threat not only to Marty and Gerry's 'Peace Process' (gravy train) but to any hope for the future.

  27. Peter Robinson & the DUP knew about the letters (or at least some of them) from the off. Will they (or any) get rescinded? Nope. Will Peter get a full judicial inquiry? Nope. Best he can hope for is some piece of legislation to stop the same thing happening again (becoming public not dirty deals getting done).

    Will Peter resign and force an election...Good chance. He wants East Belfast back. He has a great opportunity. But he could end up bitch slapped again by Naomi Long (my money is on Naomi to hold east Belfast) and his career is over (he'll end up with a peerage and retire to the house of lords..)

  28. Frankie

    Don't rule out the possibility of the PUP getting a few elected they could then take lessons from SF on how to slot painlessly into the political establishment. It won't get any more 'real' than that whatever happens.

  29. Marty-

    " if the letters are rescinded "-

    Just can't see that happening Marty as 38 of those love letters were signed when the Tory's were in power which any inquiry would make public to the English people-this could topple more than one government -Lol-Go on John Downey the boy ye-

  30. Dont think I would rule out the possibility that these letters will be recinded, as they do not stand above the law. The brits tried to push ledgislation through to facilitate the problems with OTRs but this failed. That is why we have these letters and that is why they will likely be recinded. Peter Rob probably knew about this deal that was done between the devil and its child, though he was probably never officialy briefed. The queen can issue a royal pardon but I dont know of any circumstances when a government have done this. It is outside the law and in this case, that will be proved in the coming months.

  31. Mickybroy they are,nt called prefidious albion for nothing..

  32. Were there a few letters sent out to the snouts.Never heard no more about the witholding information charges in relation to the wee kid Thomas Devlin stabbed to death on the somerton rd for being a catholic.They must all be at it.

  33. Billy brooks

    that's interesting. The only 'loyalist' friend I have was quite animated/agitated earlier that the peelers were hounding the ex loyalist paramilitaries and ignoring ex IRA. After an exchange including mention of the odd non SF candidate and mr Corey being slung into jail without excuse we agreed to NOT let the gravy train 'cons' put us at odds at 50+.

    It's all a bollox. Unionist politic..? as they say in American crime 'who dunnit' dramas.... FOLLOW THE MONEY.

  34. i feel like goin on the run

  35. Grouch I take it that you to are married a cara !

  36. marty ive made every mistake in the book except that one, no bro, im married to ireland and she drives me mental, mad bitch she is

  37. Welcome to the house of fun poor Peter swears on big Ian’s bible that he knew nothing of this deal.
    Meanwhile the SAS got their feelings hurt they fought the IRA and now the republican machine is letting them get away with it.

    Peter and his war with the PUP vying for king of the loyalist’s put the brakes on, moving on, moving back as he all of a sudden remembers there is a loyalist working class to be exploited and manipulated again.

    Frothing at the mouth crying he the first minister was kept in the dark.
    What a yarn, the drama, as the so called ambassadors of peace are no longer holding hands skipping along the beach smiling.
    The love affair of Marty and Peter on the rocks now acting like he was Thunderstruck instead of singing Norn Irons national anthem Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.
    My apology to AC-DC but neither the Greeks nor Shakespeare could compete with the tragedies’ of 3rd Force Pete.

    Go ahead Pete put on your Beret and army fatigues and collapse the government save the people some money close it down for good.

    The better part is blaming the PSNI what a lark Peter and the rest of the wasters on the hill are to blame after all it is their show.

  38. Billy Brooks,

    of course we hear no more about that wee lad’s murder I doubt they will push for withholding information and more than likely is well swept under the rug.

  39. If I was Peter, I would have resigned. He got nothing. It' not an inquiry that is being offered but a paper chasing exercise. With the firngs published after the European & Council elections. Throw into the mix a Judge has already ruled one letter and the Gov. aren't appealing..

  40. On second thoughts maybe someone had a word in his ear and said "Pete, the election you are trying to force depends on the SOS's nod of the head. Plus if she say's no, what then? Dave will implement direct rule and drive the welfare reforms home<--no pun."..Pete thought to himself.."Yeah, east Belfast is far from in the bag and the reforms will blow any chance." ..

    So he got in touch with some PR team who wrote a script for him to read and put a spin on nothing while eating humble pie..

  41. Gerard & Nuala

    From the Judgement: The Queen V John Anthony Downey.

    52. "At a meeting with the SSNI in May 2001 Mr Adams expressed the view that, in terms of Republican confidence, it would be better if there was an invisible process for dealing with OTRs,"

    From my reading it appears that requests were processed via Provisional movements' politicos, with Kelly taking the lead on this.

    Not all OTR's would want to be represented by PSF but of course there are some who aren't going to ask for clearance from the British colonialist police under any circumstances!

  42. Henry Joy.
    Kelly had been in charge but there were others before him who literally gave a judgement call on whether or not a person could return home.

    Gerry mc Geough exposed this time after time. He wrote how Kelly told him it was safe to return and then reneged when he stood as an independent.

    It has nothing to do with who represents who. These people I.e. Sinn Fein have set themselves up or been set up by the Brits to act as gatekeepers over former comrades.
    It's quite despicable that how people are picked depends on how they think.

    In this capacity Sinn Fein are acting as thought police at the behest of the Brits.

  43. Nuala, it certainly appears that is a reasonable interpretation you make.
    That Adams was engineering such a situation is evidenced in his reported comment advocating 'invisible' processes during his meeting with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

    The Downey Judgement makes interesting reading; not only did the system of clearance fail to throw up a connection to the 'Hyde Park Operation' which resulted in John appearing on the 'Ten most wanted' lists in the UK but also his naming in articles in the Sunday Times on a number of occasions over a several year period. A HET review of a 1972 case where two UDR soldiers lost their lives in Enniskillen also put him on a list of suspects for questioning. Though the HET review took place I believe after the issuing of the original 'letter of comfort'.

    A sceptic might say that constructive ambiguity and deliberate failure were inbuilt into the system of review and managed and influenced/controlled by the Provisional politico's which they used to their perceived advantage. Hence the divergences in outcomes as evidenced in John's and Gerry's or Scothy's cases.

    That other leading Provisionals were making judgements on whether people could return home is perfectly possible insofar as it appears that applications for 'letters of comfort' were routed in the main through the Provisionals ... I say 'in the main' for I remember attending a 'Hunger Strike Commemoration' in Bundoran around the early 2000's. When having a beer afterwards with an old friend who himself is an OTR we were joined by someone else who queried of my friend if he would be seeking clearance to return North. This person suggested that there was a channel through a councillor Canning from around Coalisland and Father Murray. Whether such a channel existed ... and if it existed was it independent of the Provisionals? ... I don't know ... but I do remember that conversation.

  44. Henry Joy,
    Downey was only given clearance for returning home apparently he was not cleared to return to England he was still wanted there.

    I have friends who made approaches to Sinn Fein and were ignored.
    It was not that they wanted Sinn Fein or the Brits to provide a type of amnesty it's just they wanted to able to come North for families events and things like funerals.

    Neither of them have anytime for Sinn Fein and they have reason to believe this is why they are continually ignored.

    In his capacity as a conduit Kelly was also making judgement calls on who gets the amnesty and who doesn't.,
    Which is pretty disgraceful when you put it into perspective.

  45. Nuala I am of the opinion that as of the controversies following on to the Downey Judgement 'letters of comfort' or indeed 'letters of discomfort' are a thing of the past and superfluous to much consideration by those who haven't got one!

    That said I take no issue with your comments as to how this was used by the Provisionals to minimise opposition by republican OTR's.

    Your assertions with regards to limitations on John Downey's scope to travel to England are not supported by the Judgement.

    "(23) Hence he relied upon the assurance given by the Government that;
    “The Police Service of Northern Ireland are not aware of any interest in you from any police force in the United Kingdom” – which he rightly believed to be an assurance that if he went to the UK mainland he would not be at risk of arrest or prosecution unless (as the letter went
    on to say) “…any other outstanding offence came to light, or if any
    request for extradition were to be received” – neither of which apply
    in his case.
    (24) However that assurance was wholly wrong – he was wanted by the Metropolitan Police in relation to the Hyde Park Bombing, which involved the causing of an explosion and four murders. Thus, as the prosecution conceded, the defendant was wholly misled "

    The 'letters of comfort' as I understand it were supposedly to guarantee that no outstanding warrants existed in N. Ireland, nor in the UK nor no European warrants in Euro-pol.

    Carrie's article has several supporting links; one of which links to the Judgement.

    In the context of Carrie's article it will be interesting to see if Civil Proceedings are to be issued against John Downey. On the basis of her article and on the existing precedent of the case taken by the families of the Omagh victims he'd be well advised to divest himself of assets in his own name!