PPS appeals jail term for loyalist supergrass Gary Haggarty
The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) is to appeal the six-and- a-half-year sentence handed down to loyalist supergrass Gary Haggarty for his involvement in over 200 crimes including five murders.
Former north Belfast UVF chief Haggarty (46) pleaded guilty to five murders as his part of a controversial State deal that offered a significantly-reduced prison term in return for giving evidence against other terrorist suspects.
One individual is to be prosecuted over two murders using his evidence.
Given time spent on remand, Haggarty, who was a paid police informer for 11 years, was eligible to go before the Life Sentence Parole Commissioners and it was reported at the time of his sentencing at the end of January that he could be free within weeks and placed into a witness protection scheme with a new identity.
There was outcry at the sentence from families of those killed by the UVF.
Now, the PPS is challenging the sentence on the grounds it was too lenient.
The former boss of the UVF's notorious Mount Vernon unit confessed to his crimes after signing a deal following his arrest in 2009. Haggarty provided information on 55 loyalist murders and 20 attempted murders in 1,015 police interviews.
The vast majority of individuals named by Haggarty will not face prosecution amid state concerns about a lack of supporting evidence.
Passing sentence, Judge Mr Justice Adrian Colton said Haggarty's was a case of "exceptional gravity". "The fact he was involved directly in multiple terrorist murders must be an aggravating factor," he commented.
The judge acknowledged those who become informers face torture and execution if caught.
But he said Haggarty's was not a Road to Damascus conversion, rather one motivated by self-interest, but said Haggarty had given "substantial" assistance to prosecutors.