Belfast Telegraph

Families seek appeal over ‘lenient’ sentence of state informer Gary Haggarty

The former loyalist chief was sentenced to a six-and-a-half year minimum term.

Families bereaved by a loyalist paramilitary chief-turned-state informer have called for his sentence to be challenged.

Victims have been left “deeply frustrated” at what they see as Gary Haggarty’s unduly lenient six-and-a-half year minimum term for more than 200 offences including five murders, their solicitor said.

It was heavily discounted in exchange for the former Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) kingpin, 46, giving evidence against alleged former accomplices, and relatives of the dead believe he will effectively be set free once time already served is accounted for.

A statement from lawyer Padraig O Muirigh said: “The families I represent have been left deeply frustrated after yesterday’s hearing.

“Whilst they understand that Mr Haggarty was entitled to a reduction in sentence under the SOCPA 2005 legislation, the reduction allowed in their opinion was out of all proportion to the assistance that was rendered.

“I have written to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Stephen Herron, to urge him to take appropriate steps to refer the sentence imposed on Gary Haggarty to the Court of Appeal.”

Haggarty’s evidence has led to one person being charged with murder.

He admitted involvement in the killings as part of the deal to give evidence against criminals charged.

Most people named in his police interviews will not face prosecution amid state concerns about a lack of supporting evidence.

Sentencing judge Mr Justice Adrian Colton QC said he provided substantial assistance which provided a check against the belief that these people are “untouchable” and major criminals may otherwise have escaped justice.

Mr O Muirigh said the sentence was unduly lenient, especially given that Haggarty’s guilty pleas were not motivated by remorse but rather “self-preservation”.

He added: “The 35-year starting point (before discount) was too low given the senior position that Gary Haggarty occupied, the deaths which resulted and the long period over which his terror campaign was waged.”

The judge said Haggarty’s was a case of “exceptional gravity” and untold damage had been caused to individual lives and society as a whole.

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