Belfast Telegraph

UVF trial ‘supergrass’ excused for day after psychiatrist called in

By Paul Higgins

UVF ‘supergrass' Robert Stewart was yesterday excused from giving evidence after a psychiatrist recommended that he should not take to the witness box.



While Stewart told the court he felt able to continue, prosecuting QC Gordon Kerr raised concerns due to his “complexion and demeanour” and the trial was adjourned to allow him to be examined by a psychiatrist.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Ian Bownes came to the court and examined Stewart. Diplock trial judge Mr Justice Gillen was told the doctor recommended that Stewart not continue but be allowed to come back on Monday.

The doctor also recommended that Stewart only give evidence four days a week, with 20-minute breaks interposed in his testimony.

Stewart is giving evidence against 14 alleged UVF men, nine of whom are accused of murdering rival UDA chief Tommy English, for the fourth week, but it is the third time he has not been well enough to take the stand.

Following the psychiatrist’s recommendations yesterday defence lawyers asked if Stewart could be examined by a psychiatrist on their behalf, but Stewart, the court heard, refused the request.

Mr Justice Gillen told lawyers to arrange for other evidence to be given in the meantime.

Stewart has also been allowed to speak to a solicitor after Mr Justice Gillen told the court he had no power to stop the witness speaking to anyone as long as he did not discuss his evidence.

The judge said while any discussion with a legal adviser would be subject to privilege and confidential, as “an officer of the Supreme Court” any such solicitor would know the principles and rules of the court.

There had been speculation among lawyers involved in the case that Stewart, who received a discounted life sentence in exchange for his testimony, wanted to seek legal advice about the terms of the contract he signed under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, knowing that any breach could potentially mean he is resentenced.

Mr Justice Gillen said if that were the case, it would be open to Stewart to obtain advice on the general rules concerning contractual obligations.

The trial continues.

Story so far

Tommy English, a senior member of the UDA, was shot dead in front of his family during a feud between that organisation and the UVF.

The trial is the biggest and most expensive to be held in Northern Ireland for many years.

The 14 defendants are being represented by 24 barristers and eight firms of solicitors and the trial is expected to last for 11 weeks.

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