Belfast Telegraph

Supergrass who gave evidence in journalist murder trial to face judge

A loyalist supergrass who gave evidence in a failed attempt to prosecute the killers of a journalist in Northern Ireland is to face a judge over an alleged breach of his deal with the state.

Two other so-called assisting offenders who also received reduced jail terms, this time for giving evidence in a separate multimillion-pound loyalist murder trial, have also been accused of breaking their agreements, but they are not being referred to a court.

The decisions to refer Loyalist Volunteer Force paramilitary Neil Hyde but not to make Ulster Volunteer Force members and brothers Robert and Ian Stewart face a judge were announced by the Public Prosecution Service.

Hyde was given a heavily reduced term of three years, when facing a potential 18-year sentence, for 48 LVF offences after agreeing to become an assisting offender to the authorities investigating the 2001 murder of Sunday World reporter Martin O'Hagan in Lurgan, Co Armagh.

Earlier this year Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory announced there would be no prosecutions mounted on the basis of Hyde's evidence.

Mr McGrory claimed there was sufficient evidence to show Hyde breached his assisting offender agreement to give a truthful account of events and it was in the interests of justice to refer him to court.

A judge will decide whether he has broken his deal and, if so, will review the sentence he was offered.

The decision by the PPS to refer the case to court is understood to be the first under assisting offender legislation in the UK.

The PPS claims both Stewart brothers lied on the witness stand when giving evidence against 13 men accused of roles in the murder of Ulster Defence Association leader Tommy English in north Belfast in 2000.

Twelve of the accused were cleared of all charges with the trial judge criticising the brothers' testimony as being "infected with lies".

The brothers served only three years of life sentences after each struck an assisting offenders deal.

Explaining the decision not to refer them to court, the PPS said the Stewarts' breaches of their agreements had no material impact on the outcome of the trial.

All three supergrasses are in witness protection and have been given new identities.

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