Damages awarded to man shot in leg on Bloody Sunday
A man shot as he remonstrated with British soldiers for killing a teenager in Derry on Bloody Sunday is to receive £138,000 in damages, a High Court judge ruled today.
The award made to Michael Bridge (75) covers the injuries inflicted on him by a ranking officer who, then, falsely claimed he had been carrying a suspected nail bomb.
Mr Justice McAlinden said: “It was a callous, hideous attack on an unarmed civilian who was simply protesting about the shooting dead of a 17-year-old.”
Thirteen people were killed when members of the Parachute Regiment opened fire on civil rights demonstrators in the city on January 30, 1972.
Victims and their families brought a series of civil actions against the Ministry of Defence after a major tribunal established the innocence of all those killed and wounded.
The Saville Inquiry’s findings in 2010 prompted the Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron, to publicly apologise for the soldiers’ actions.
He described the events on Bloody Sunday as “unjustified and unjustifiable”.
Millions of pounds have already been paid out in settlements and awards made in other compensation cases.
Mr Bridge sued over being shot in the leg and, then, allegedly targeted during a series of subsequent raids on his home.
The court heard he was a steward on the civil rights march when demonstrators were hit by water cannon, gas and rubber bullets.
At the Rossville Flats, he discovered Jackie Duddy had been shot, with a group which included Father Edward Daly crouched over the dying teenager.
In evidence, Mr Bridge described feeling a sense of “rage” and going over to remonstrate with the paratroopers.
A lieutenant, referred to as Soldier N, then opened fire without warning, wounding him in the upper thigh.
As he was being taken away for medical treatment, another paratrooper was said to have informed him: “You’re finished.”
Solder N later claimed he acted because Mr Bridge was carrying some sort of smoking object.
According to the judge, those “blatant lies” continued until, eventually, they were dispelled by the Saville Inquiry.
“At no time on that day in question was Mr Bridge carrying anything that could have been mistaken for a device or other means of threat to the Army,” he stressed.
Mr Justice McAlinden identified greater blame in a commissioned officer carrying out the “wanton act of violence”.
He added: “Officers, by reason of their command and leadership role, definitely should not act in such a callous, conspicuously wrong manner.”
The alleged subsequent harassment of Mr Bridge involved being detained and threatened with prosecution.
In one incident, members of the security forces raided his home and removed uniforms from his previous service in the Territorial Army, the court heard.
The motivation for confiscating those items was held to be related to the events on Bloody Sunday.
Awarding a total of £138,000 to cover general and aggravated damages, the judge emphasised: “There was no justification whatsoever for the attack on Mr Bridge.
“There is a clear recognition of the wrong that was done to him so long ago, and that it has taken far too long for the recognition he deserves to be provided in open court.”