High Court: £193,000 in compensation awarded to Bloody Sunday victim



A man who was 17-years-old when he was shot in the face while attending a civil rights march in Derry on 30 January 1972 has been awarded £193,000 in compensation.

The man was one of 28 innocent people who were shot by soldiers on Bloody Sunday, 13 of whom were killed or mortally wounded and another died from his injuries five-months later.

In the High Court, Mr Justice Gerry McAlinden held that the compensation had to reflect the pain and suffering which the man continues to suffer, as well as the stigma attached by the initial findings which wrongly blamed the unarmed civilians who organised and attended the civil rights march.

The Saville Report

The Bloody Sunday Inquiry was established in 1998 with Lord Saville as its chairman. Published in June 2010, the Saville Report concluded that the victims were entirely innocent and that ‘Bloody Sunday was a tragedy for the bereaved and the wounded, and a catastrophe for the people of Northern Ireland’. The Inquiry found that none of the 28 people who were shot and either injured or killed were ‘posing a threat of causing death or serious injury’, that ‘immediate responsibility for the deaths and injuries on Bloody Sunday lies with those members of Support Company whose unjustifiable firing was the cause of those deaths and injuries’, and that ‘there was a serious and widespread loss of fire discipline among the soldiers of Support Company’.

The findings were in stark contrast to those of the Widgery Report, which in April 1972 had claimed that the first shots had been ‘directed at the soldiers’. The Widgery Report exonerated the soldiers, claiming that there was ‘no general breakdown in discipline’, and that there would have been ‘no deaths… if those who organised the illegal march had not thereby created a highly dangerous situation in which a clash between demonstrators and the security forces was almost inevitable’. The Widgery Report was described as a ‘whitewash’ by the victims and their families.

Following the Saville Report, nearly 40 years after Bloody Sunday, David Cameron issued an apology on behalf of the UK Government, stating that ‘what happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable’.

Compensation

A number of test cases have been brought against the Ministry of Defence to assess the level of compensation to those injured on Bloody Sunday.

The Saville Report found that Michael Quinn, the plaintiff in the present case, was one of a number of people who were fleeing and seeking refuge from the soldiers in Glenfada Park North. Four soldiers entered Glenfada Park North and ‘fired indiscriminately at the people who were in the south-west corner of Glenfada Park North’ within seconds. In that south-west corner, Mr Quinn was shot in the face, Patrick O’Donnell (aged 41), Joe Mahon (aged 16), Joe Friel (aged 20), and Daniel Gillespie (aged 32) were injured alongside him, and Jim Wray (aged 22) and William McKinney (aged 26) were shot and killed.

Michael Quinn’s cheekbone was shattered, and he suffered nerve damage to his lip and eyelid. In the High Court, the Ministry of Defence did not contest liability, and Mr Justice McAlinden said that the compensation awarded to Michael Quinn had to take into account the pain and suffering that was caused, and that he continues to suffer. It also had to be taken into consideration the stigma that he had suffered as a result of the initial findings which placed blame on those who attended the march rather than the soldiers.

Emphasising that the Michael Quinn was an entirely innocent victim, as were the others who were shot and either injured or killed on Bloody Sunday, Mr Justice McAlinden awarded £193,000 in compensation.

  • by Seosamh Gráinséir for Irish Legal News

© Irish Legal News Ltd 2021



Other judgments by Mr Justice McAlinden