MoD lose appeal against ‘Sunday’ compensation
The British Ministry of Defence has lost its appeal against an extra £15,000 compensation awarded to the family of the last man killed by the British Army on Bloody Sunday.
Senior judges rejected claims that Bernard “Barney” McGuigan’s relatives were not entitled to the aggravated damages for injury to his feelings because he died instantly.
Instead, they backed a finding that the father-of-six would have experienced fear and dread when members of the Parachute Regiment opened fire in Derry in January 1972.
Lord Justice McCloskey said: “All of this conduct... was capable of generating in every person of normal mental fortitude in the area a reasonable apprehension of being shot or wounded.”
Thirteen unarmed people were killed during a civil rights march in the city.
Another of those wounded on the day, which became known as Bloody Sunday, died later.
In 2010, the Saville Inquiry into the shootings established the innocence of all of the victims.
Those findings led to David Cameron, the British Prime Minister at the time, issuing a public apology for the soldiers’ actions.
He described the killings as “unjustified and unjustifiable”.
Liability has been accepted in legal actions taken against the Ministry of Defence (MoD) by those bereaved or injured.
Court proceedings have centred on the level of damages in each case, with more than £3 million in total paid out to date.
Mr McGuigan, a painter and decorator, was shot in the Rossville Flats area as he went to the aid of 31-year-old Patrick Doherty, who was also shot dead on the day.
The 41-year-old had been waving a handkerchief or towel when hit by a bullet to the head, killing him instantly.
A claim by his estate was settled for £258,000.
But a High Court judge then awarded a further £15,000 in aggravated damages.
He found that the soldiers’ actions 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”.
The MoD went to the Court of Appeal to challenge the additional award, claiming it was wrong in law because Mr McGuigan’s death was instantaneous.
But counsel for his family insisted the pay-out was justified by the terror he experienced during the shootings.
The court heard Mr McGuigan had been sheltering behind a wall when he went out to try to offer help, clearly aware he was putting himself in danger.
“That’s why he was waving the piece of towel as he went out,” the family’s barrister submitted.
Ruling on the appeal, Lord Justice McCloskey described the MoD’s case as “unsustainable” and affirmed the £15,000 compensation for aggravated damages. He also made an award of costs of the hearing against the Ministry.