PPS challenge to supergrass Haggarty's jail term 'made too late'
The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has denied missing a legal deadline for lodging its challenge to the sentence given to loyalist supergrass Gary Haggarty.
Former north Belfast UVF chief Haggarty (46) was sentenced to six-and-a-half-years in prison for more than 500 offences, including five murders. He was offered a significantly-reduced prison term in return for giving evidence against other terrorist suspects.
The PPS announced on Monday it was appealing the sentence on the grounds it was unduly lenient.
But it has been revealed the 60-page PPS submission may have been lodged after a 28-day deadline to appeal the tariff elapsed. The BBC has reported the papers were not served until 4.25pm on Monday, but the court service closes for business at 4pm.
A PPS spokesperson said: "I can confirm an issue has arisen as to whether notice to seek leave to refer the sentence imposed on Gary Haggarty to the Court of Appeal was served in time. It is the PPS position that the statutory time limit has been met. The Court of Appeal has listed this preliminary point for hearing on March 9, 2018 at 10am."
A solicitor representing Haggarty told the BBC he was challenging the legal basis of the appeal.
"Upon notification that the application was apparently lodged a full 25 minutes after close of business, we queried with Court Service whether in fact a proper and fully compliant appeal had been lodged in this case," said Ciaran Shiels.
"We have been advised that the Lord Chief Justice is to convene the Court of Criminal Appeal on March 9 to consider whether there has been proper compliance with the statutory requirements in respect of this case."