Almost £20,000 spent on prosecution of Winston Rea
The veteran loyalist has pleaded not guilty to 19 charges, alleged to have been committed between 1973 and 1996.
Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service has spent almost £20,000 on an ongoing attempt to prosecute loyalist Winston Rea, following the seizure of tapes from an oral history project, it can be disclosed.
Rea, of Springwell Crescent in Groomsport, County Down, has pleaded not guilty to 19 charges.
The charges he denies include conspiring to murder Catholic civilians John Devine in 1989 and John O’Hara in 1991, conspiring with others to threaten to kill LVF leader Billy Wright in August 1996, as well as membership of a proscribed organisation on dates between 1973 and 1996.
Rea’s trial had been due to start in 2018, but was delayed due to his poor health.
The non-jury trial is set to be heard on February 24, following a fitness to plead hearing listed for January 30-31.
The prosecution of Rea is one of two launched by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) following the seizure by the Police Service of Northern Ireland of tapes from Boston College’s Belfast Project.
Dozens of republicans and loyalists gave interviews about their experiences during Northern Ireland’s troubled past to the project, on the understanding they would not be released until after their death.
A trial of the facts into charges that republican Ivor Bell solicited the murder of disappeared mother-of-ten Jean McConville, based on the taped interviews he is alleged to have given to the project, resulted in a not guilty finding after the evidence was deemed unreliable by Mr Justice O’Hara at Belfast Crown Court earlier this year.
That prosecution cost the public purse more than £100,000, the PA news agency previously disclosed.
In response to a Freedom of Information Act request about prosecution costs in Rea’s case, the PPS said it is not possible to produce precise costs for time spent on individual cases.
However, it supplied the identifiable costs in the prosecution so far, which include fees paid to prosecuting counsel and expenses paid to witnesses.
In the case involving Rea, £19,061 has been spent so far.
This includes £17,723 to prosecuting counsel and £1,338 for witness expenses.
In every case the PPS applies what is known as the test for prosecution, which involves an assessment of whether there is sufficient evidence to put a person on trial.
A spokesman for the PPS said they could not comment on the Winston Rea case as proceedings remain live.