For some victims of negligent or criminal acts, achieving vindication and establishing the truth are at least as important as monetary compensation. That was certainly so in the case of a woman who was aged just four when her soldier father was killed in a notorious IRA bomb attack.
Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young, aged 19, was one of four members of the Household Cavalry who died when a remote-controlled car bomb exploded in Hyde Park on 20 July 1982. His daughter, Sarah Jane Young, was in a barracks nursery a short distance away and heard the massive explosion. Decades later, she launched proceedings against John Anthony Downey, a former IRA member who was suspected of involvement in the attack.
Following a trial, a judge found that Lance Corporal Young was unlawfully killed in a deliberate, carefully planned attack which was specifically targeted at members of the military. Nails had been used in the explosive device, which had been carefully assembled to kill or maim. Downey’s fingerprints were found on two parking tickets connected to the car used in the attack, of which he was probably the driver, and the judge found that he was a knowing and active participant in the bombing.
Following a further hearing, the High Court noted that Downey was arrested in 2013 and charged with four counts of murder and doing an act with intent to cause an explosion. For reasons unconnected to his guilt or innocence, however, the case was stopped as an abuse of process and the prosecution collapsed. Ms Young’s civil claim was in part motivated by her desire to achieve vindication in circumstances where the state was perceived to have failed her.
She sought compensation for the psychiatric injuries she suffered due to her close proximity to the traumatic event. However, the Court found that, given her youth and limited awareness at the time, she did not fall within the highly restricted category of secondary victims who are entitled to recover damages in respect of incidents in which they are not directly involved.
She and her mother were, however, entitled to compensation in full for their loss of financial dependency on Lance Corporal Young. She was awarded £178,364 and her mother £535,093. The Court also awarded £1,750 to Lance Corporal Young’s estate, reflecting the pain and suffering he endured in the moments before he died.
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