Belfast Telegraph

Stewart brothers whose evidence at a major loyalist supergrass trial was 'dripping with lies' should be facing a possible return to jail, court hears

By Alan Erwin

Two brothers whose evidence at a major loyalist supergrass trial was "dripping with lies" should be facing a possible return to jail, the High Court heard today.

Counsel for one of the men acquitted of murder claimed a judge who slashed self-confessed UVF members Robert and Ian Stewart's prison terms in return for becoming assisting offenders should now be able to reconsider their sentences.

Jason Loughlin's barrister also argued that little was gained from dishonest testimony given by the pair during a hugely expensive trial process.

The Stewarts were held to have lied in court as they testified against Mr Loughlin and 11 other men ultimately cleared of all charges linked to the paramilitary feud murder of rival UDA boss Tommy English in 2000 and dozens of other terror-related offences.

Both brothers had owned up to their involvement in the assassination plot and other serious crimes.

Their 22-year sentences were reduced to three years in jail as part of the agreement to give evidence against alleged former associates.

But despite acknowledging the Stewarts broke the terms of the deal, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) decided not to seek to have their original sentences re-imposed.

It was concluded that the breaches did not have a significant impact on the outcome of the supergrass trial in 2012.

Now, however, 38-year-old Mr Loughlin, from Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, is seeking to judicially review the senior prosecutor's decision.

A panel of senior judges in Belfast was told today that the Stewarts should be referred back to the Crown Court under the terms of the Serious Organised Crime Police Act for breaching their assisting offender agreements.

David Scoffield QC, for Mr Loughlin, said the trial judge concluded their evidence as being "shot through with rank dishonesty".

He argued that the reduction in the brothers' prison sentences was partly based on a remorse which ultimately they were found to have never shown.

Instead they gave false accounts purely for their own self-preservation, Mr Scoffield claimed.

He said: "In a fair reading of this case the evidence was dripping with lies."

The barrister continued: "We have the Stewart brothers being convicted of the most serious of offences, their (prison) terms are massively reduced by an exceptional amount and there's very limited benefit to the public as a result of the assistance they provided to the prosecution.

"It came at massive public cost, and the question we ask rhetorically is, on what conceivable basis, now knowing what we do, should they not serve the appropriate sentence for their offences."

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, Mr Justice Weir and Mr Justice Treacy were also told all of the alleged breaches by the brothers were not properly examined.

Mr Scoffield contended that under the terms of the Act full compliance is required from an assisting offender.

He said: "If there's a breach your immunity (from prosecution) evaporates."

The case continues.

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