A judge has refused to halt the trial of 14 men implicated in a series of UVF terrorist crimes by two supergrass brothers.
But he has thrown out a number of charges against some of the accused because the evidence against them was “weak”.
Lawyers for the accused had urged Mr Justice Gillen to acquit all the men on all of the charges because they said the unsupported evidence of brothers Robert and Ian Stewart was totally and completely unworthy of belief.
They argued that, based on the inconsistencies of the brothers' evidence, the judge could never be convinced of the guilt of the men who between them face a total of 37 charges, ranging from the murder of UDA leader Tommy English to causing grievous bodily harm to men in punishment beatings. Other charges include UVF membership and assisting offenders.
Mr Justice Gillen said he was acquitting the defendants on charges relating to two of the punishment beatings.
He said John Bond, one of the accused who was implicated in a beating, was actually in prison at the time.
But the judge said his findings about the Stewarts' evidence didn't apply to the charges relating to the English murder and to another beating, and to the allegations of UVF membership.
The ruling left only one of the accused — David Smart — acquitted of all the charges against him.
Accused of Mr English's killing are 41-year-old Mark Haddock from the Mount Vernon area of north Belfast; his alleged UVF second-in-command, 38-year-old David ‘Reggie' Millar; the alleged commander of the New Mossley UVF, Alex ‘Poco' Wood, and his suspected lieutenant, Jason Loughlin, both aged 34.
Nine other men deny the murder of rival UDA chief English in October 2000 and UVF membership, possessing guns and hijacking.
Story so far
The supergrass trial began in September 2011 and is one of the biggest and most expensive criminal trials in Northern Ireland legal history. Under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, the Stewarts have agreed to give truthful evidence about the men in the dock. In such cases, so-called ‘assisting offenders’ can have their sentences reduced.