LVF supergrass sent back to court
A supergrass who turned state's evidence in return for a lighter jail term has become the first in the UK to be ordered back to court for allegedly breaching his deal with prosecutors.
Convicted loyalist paramilitary Neil Hyde, originally from Co Armagh, could have years added to his sentence if a judge accepts the view of Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service (PPS) that he reneged on his agreement to provide the authorities a truthful account of events surrounding the murder of a journalist 12 years ago.
Two other so-called assisting offenders from Northern Ireland who received reduced terms, this time for giving evidence in a separate multimillion-pound loyalist murder trial, have also been accused of breaking their contracts, but they are not being referred to a court.
The decisions to refer the case of Loyalist Volunteer Force member Hyde, but not to make Ulster Volunteer Force members and brothers Robert and Ian Stewart face a judge, despite evidence they lied in court, were announced by the PPS.
All three supergrasses are in witness protection and have been given new identities.
Hyde was given a substantially reduced term of three years - when facing a potential 18-year sentence - for almost 50 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.
But 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 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 PPS said decision to refer the case to court is without precedent and is understood to be the first under assisting offender legislation in the UK.
One of the offences Hyde was jailed for was conspiracy to carry a firearm with intent to wound in connection with Mr O'Hagan's murder.