Belfast Telegraph

PSNI spent £4m on supergrass trial

The PSNI spent more than £4 million on the first loyalist supergrass trial in Northern Ireland for more than 25 years.

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 ever held in Northern Ireland, relied on the evidence of supergrasses Robert and Ian Stewart.

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 Mr English, kidnapping, and UVF membership.

Twelve were cleared on all charges. Neil Pollock, 36, was convicted of possessing items intended for terrorism.

A letter from the Department of Justice to the justice committee at Stormont revealed that the estimated costs for the Police Service of Northern Ireland are slightly more than £4.3 million.

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 £5.8 million.

The figure does not include legal aid fees for the defence barristers and solicitors, whose costs have still not been finalised.

Ulster Unionist Party assembly member Basil McCrea 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.

"With the nature of the evidence involved in such trials, it is vital that the PSNI and PPS are working together as fluidly as possible.

"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."

Traditional Unionist Voice assembly member Jim Allister said the costs were huge.

"It always has been a broken reed, supergrass evidence. That was discovered in the 1980s and that is borne out again by this trial. Then when you factor in the huge costs, it does make you wonder about the wisdom of putting so many eggs into one basket," he said.

"One wants to see criminals brought to justice for these horrendous crimes but the process has certain standards which if you compromise you are on the slippery slope to the antithesis of justice."

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