Two brothers who committed dozens of terrorist crimes will serve as little as three years in jail because they have turned “supergrass”.
Newtownabbey men David and Robert Stewart were in the UVF.
They were given the substantially reduced minimum tariff of three years as a ‘reward' for admitting a “veritable litany of crimes” and for giving a written undertaking to give evidence against their former loyalist associates.
Sentencing the brothers Belfast Crown Court judge Mr Justice Hart revealed that 10 others already face prosecution for the “premeditated, carefully planned terrorist execution” of Tommy English, while six others faces related charges and that still more may face arrest.
The judge said that the actual gunmen who shot Mr English in front of his wife and family in October 2000 could expect minimum sentences of 25 years. Mr Justice Hart also warned 36-year-old Ian Stewart, of Carntall Rise, and his 39-year-old brother Robert, from Ballyearl Court, also in Newtownabbey, that if they failed to live up to their agreement under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act of 2005 they would face re-sentence, which could see them serving the minimum of 22 years.
The judge said the actions of the brothers “represents the most compelling and potent evidence of their remorse for their crimes”.
Their sentence of three years each for aiding and abetting the murder by providing the gunmen's transport, are to run from August 2008 when they first pleaded guilty to them in court, which could see them being freed on parole in August 2011.
Tommy English's wife Doreen said she was “content” with the sentences “on the basis that we will get the real perpetrators of my husband's murder and hopefully, 25-year life sentences”.
“It will be worth it in the long run,” Mrs English said.
Earlier Mr Justice Hart said the case “provides a chilling reminder of the way in which for so many years terrorist organisations— loyalist and republican alike” had preyed on their communities.
The judge said that by their admissions “it was clear that both defendants were deeply involved in terrorist crimes for many years”.
However he said that “such is the extent of the assistance” given by the Stewart brothers that they initially deserved a 75% reduction in their sentence, followed by a “required... further reduction... to take account of their pleas of guilty and their personal circumstances”.