Barney McGuigan’s family to receive damages

The family of the last person to be killed by British soldiers on Bloody Sunday appear set to receive at least £258,000 in damages.

Tuesday, 9th April 2019, 9:05 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th April 2019, 10:07 am
Barney McGuigan.

The recommended pay-out for the shooting of father-of-six Bernard ‘Barney’ McGuigan in Derry, was disclosed during proceedings at the High Court.But a possible appeal is also being considered against a ruling that an extra £15,000 should be awarded for injury to the 41-year-old victim’s feelings.

Thirteen people were shot dead when members of the Parachute Regiment opened fire on civil rights demonstrators in January, 1972. A 14th victim died later from his wounds.

Civil actions were brought by victims and their families after the Saville Inquiry established the innocence of all those killed and wounded in 2010, prompting then Prime Minister, David Cameron, to publicly apologise for the actions of the soldiers. With liability accepted, proceedings are centred on the level of damages. More than £1.8m has already been paid out in settlements and awards made in 16 other claims.

Mr. McGuigan, a painter and decorator, was shot at the Rossville Flats area as he went to the aid of 31-years-old Patrick Doherty, another of those shot dead on the day. He had been waving a white handkerchief when hit by a bullet to the head, killing him instantly.

Counsel for the McGuigan family, Brian Fee Q.C., contended that aggravated damages should also be awarded due to the circumstances surrounding his killing. “This man emerged from a position of shelter to try and help others, and must have been terrified as he did so,” he said.

David Ringland Q.C., representing the Ministry of Defence, argued that aggravated damages are not recoverable because death was instantaneous.

Ruling on the dispute, Mr Justice McAlinden backed the plaintiff. “The wrongful actions of the servants or agents of the defendant on the day in question would have filled the deceased with fear and dread, coupled with a strong sense of indignation and hurt at being the innocent victim of a blatant, unprovoked and unjust attack by members of the army,” he said. He also held that the behaviour of the soldiers responsible for the shootings was “imbued with a degree of malevolence and flagrancy which was truly exceptional”.

Based on Mr. McGuigan being killed instantly, the judge decided his estate is entitled to £15,000 aggravated damages.

At a further hearing on Thursday last he was told the MoD was considering whether to appeal that award and that counsel has provided advice. Any challenge could impact on similar claims for aggravated damages in outstanding cases brought by the Doherty family and others, the court heard.

It then emerged that an overall settlement of £273,000 has been advanced in the McGuigan case - made up of £258,000 plus the £15,000 awarded. “That’s the recommended figure,” Mr Ringland said.

Noting the agreement reached between counsel, Mr. Justice McAlinden said a formal decree can be made once final authorisation is obtained.

Outside court, a lawyer for the Doherty family expressed disappointment at both having their case adjourned and the potential appeal to the aggravated damages award to the McGuigan family.

Fearghal Shiels of Madden & Finucane Solicitors claimed: “It is a trivial amount in the context of the MoD’s limitless budget, and their general approach to this litigation is far removed from the efficient manner with which it undertook to approach these proceedings in 2011.”