Damages awarded to family of Bloody Sunday victim Peggy Deery
The family of the only woman to be shot on Bloody Sunday are to be awarded nearly £270,000 in damages, the High Court has ruled.
A judge held that the estate of Peggy Deery should receive the payout for the injuries sustained in Derry in January 1972 and subsequent years of mental distress.
Mr Justice McAlinden described the behaviour of the British soldiers who wounded and verbally abused the widowed mother-of-fourteen as “imbued with a degree of malevolence and flagrancy which was truly exceptional”.
Aged 38 at the time, Mrs Deery was shot in the leg during events in the city that became known as Bloody Sunday. She died 16 years later of a heart attack.
Relatives of Mrs Deery sued the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for the injuries they claim contributed to her death in 1988.
With liability accepted, the case centred on a dispute over the appropriate level of damages.
Counsel for the family argued that the paratrooper who shot her probably knew she posed no threat.
She was carried into a house on Chamberlain Street to be treated by members of the Knights of Malta.
The court heard soldiers then entered the property and allegedly directed foul language at the widow, stating that she “deserved it” and declaring: “Let the ***** bleed to death.”
Mrs Deery, who lost her husband to cancer months before Bloody Sunday, had been raising 14 children aged between eight months and 16-years old.
She spent four months in hospital, developed a chronic kidney disease and was effectively housebound for the rest of her life, Mr Justice McAlinden was told.
Her oldest children had to assume responsibility for her care and the rest of the family.
One daughter, Helen Deery, told the court how they carried out cooking and cleaning duties in a house with no central heating or washing machine.
“We had to do everything,” she said.
In his judgment, Mr Justice McAlinden stressed Mrs Deery was a woman of good character who attended the civil rights march in support of a society based on fairness and equality.
“Any claim that she was anything other than an innocent demonstrator was a fabrication constructed and perpetuated by the perpetrator or perpetrators of a wrong in an attempt to avoid personal or collective responsibility for any wrongdoing,” he said.
Awarding £250,000 to Mrs Deery’s estate, the judge added a further £17,028 in special damages for the cost of care provided to her.