Supergrass prosecutions reviewed
The process of deciding whether to take future prosecutions based on supergrass evidence has been reviewed in the wake of a controversial murder trial this year, Northern Ireland's Director of Public Prosecutions has said.
Barra McGrory said he took the action after a detailed analysis of the judgment in the case that saw 12 men acquitted of a range of terrorist offences, nine of them for the murder of UDA leader Tommy English in Belfast in 2000.
Judge Mr Justice Gillen was very critical of key state evidence provided by brothers and self-confessed UVF members Ian and Robert Stewart, who had agreed to testify against the accused men as so-called assisting offenders in return for a lighter sentence.
Future cases involving supergrass evidence could be in the pipeline, with alleged senior loyalist and murder accused Gary Haggarty, 40, from north Belfast, having also turned state's witness.
Mr McGrory said he would not criticise the decision to take prosecutions based on the Stewart evidence - noting that he was not in the post at the time.
He stressed that any future prosecutorial decisions would be made after intensive analysis of the evidence.
"I would like to think certainly that when the next decision comes to be taken, and there will be decisions soon, that they'll be taken in a very careful and analytical way," he said.
"All I can say is that I have had cause to review how decisions will be taken in respect of accomplice evidence within the legislative framework and I am confident that when those decisions are taken they will be as accurate as they can possibly be."
Mr McGrory said reliability would always be an issue with such evidence but said police had to match up the testimony with other information available.
"We have got to look at ways that we can ensure that we not only get over the 'case to answer' stage but we have information which is reliable enough to bring in convictions and certainly there is nobody more aware (of) the range of areas where that evidence might be found wanting than I am, and the senior lawyers in this office who are looking at the future cases are well briefed in what's needed."