Belfast Telegraph

Sentence of man convicted for part in journalist murder 'no longer under review'

The sentence of a man convicted for his part in the murder of journalist Martin O'Hagan is no longer under review by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS), it was announced.

Neil Hyde is serving a three-year jail term after his initial sentence of 18 years was reduced by 75% for his assistance in helping the police investigate the killing.

The PPS had indicated that the reduction could be reviewed amid claims that the loyalist supergrass had breached the terms of his "assisting offender" agreement by not telling the full truth in his dealings with the authorities.

 But in a statement issued today the PPS said it was no longer seeking a review.

"Based on the initial evidence the specified prosecutor in this case had concluded that the assisting offender had knowingly breached his agreement under section 73 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 and that it was in the interest of justice that the case be referred back to the original sentencing court.

"However, following further examination of the evidence previously made available by police, extensive police enquiries and PPS consultation with the relevant witness, it is considered that the evidence which is now available is not sufficient to establish a breach of the agreement by Neil Hyde to the requisite standard. Accordingly there is no longer a basis to refer the matter to the court.

"The court has therefore been informed that the PPS no longer seeks the review of the sentence," the statement said.

Mr O'Hagan, 51, was shot dead as he walked home from a night out with his wife in Lurgan in September 2001.

The killing of the Sunday World reporter was claimed by the Red Hand Defenders, a cover name used by both the Loyalist Volunteer Force and Ulster Defence Association.

The PPS also said its director Barra McGrory QC now intended to exercise his powers to refer the matter to the Police Ombudsman.

"The director now intends to exercise his power under section 55 of the Police Act 1998 to refer the matter to the Police Ombudsman for investigation," the statement said.

Hyde was prosecuted for a range of offences including conspiring to carry a firearm with intent to wound in connection with the murder of Mr O'Hagan.

He was the first journalist killed in the line of work in the history of the Northern Ireland Troubles.

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