Belfast Telegraph

£5.8m and still rising... bill we face after failed supergrass trial

By Michael McHugh

The PSNI spent more than £4m on the first loyalist supergrass trial in Northern Ireland for more than 25 years, it has emerged.

Twelve men were acquitted of all charges against them after a judge branded two main prosecution witnesses liars and ruthless terrorists.

Details were revealed in a letter to the justice committee at Stormont.

The trial, one of the most expensive held in Northern Ireland, relied on the evidence of supergrasses Robert and Ian Stewart.

A letter from the Department of Justice to the justice committee revealed that the estimated costs for the PSNI alone are more than £4.3m.

That included the cost of the investigation and providing security during the 72-day trial.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) spent £520,000 and the court service another £219,000.

The cost to the Prison Service was £768,605.

The combined costs totalled more than £5.8m. The figure does not include legal aid fees for the defence barristers and solicitors, whose costs are still not finalised.

A PSNI spokesman said £1.25m was spent on policing arrangements for the Haddock trial and £3.1m for the preceding investigation.

“Cost does not play any part in a decision to commence an investigation.

“The cost of any investigation is secondary to those obligations which exist for PSNI to conduct a full and thorough inquiry into any incidence of serious crime,” he said.

“The policing operation put in place for the trial was based on the information available to police and also the past experience of policing an event which attracts significant publicity and risk.”

Ulster Unionist Party Assembly Member Basil McCrea (left) said: “We share the concerns over the most recent supergrass trial here, which was extremely costly and the lack of convictions served only to lower public confidence in our justice system.

“There has been open criticism of the quality of the police files by the head of the PPS (Barra McGrory), and if assisting offender evidence is to work effectively, then there must be positive relationships between the PSNI and the PPS.”

Sinn Fein MLA Raymond McCartney said the trial had failed on all fronts.

“Further use of it will not only continue to damage the public’s confidence in the administration of justice in the North, but will also be a waste of taxpayers’ money,” he said.

factfile

Nine men involved in the Ulster Volunteer Force trial were acquitted of the murder of Ulster Defence Association leader Tommy English, including alleged former UVF leader in north Belfast Mark Haddock. Thirteen men were charged with more than 30 offences including the murder of rival loyalist English, kidnapping and UVF membership. Twelve were cleared on all charges. Neil Pollock (36) was convicted of possessing items intended for terrorism.

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