Belfast Telegraph

PPS to appeal Gary Haggarty six-year sentence for 202 terror crimes including five murders

The Public Prosecution Service 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 he could be free within weeks and placed into a witness protection scheme with a new identity.

There was an outcry from families of those killed by the UVF who described the sentencing as "lenient".

The former boss of the UVF’s notorious Mount Vernon unit confessed to his crimes after signing his contentious supergrass deal following his arrest in 2009. Since turning state witness, Haggarty provided information on 55 loyalist murders and 20 attempted murders in 1,015 police interviews.

The vast majority of individuals named by Haggarty in his police interviews will not face prosecution amid state concerns about a lack of supporting evidence.

Graphic details of Haggarty’s murderous confessions were outlined at a pre-sentence hearing last year, as were explosive claims that police failed to prevent loyalist murders despite receiving advance warning from their high-ranking UVF informant.

Haggarty admitted 202 offences including the murders of Sean McParland, Gary Convie, Eamon Fox, Sean McDermott and John Harbinson and Peter McTasney. A further 301 offences were taken into consideration.

He received a 35-year sentence which was reduced to six and a half years based on his assistance to police and on his guilty plea.

Passing sentence, Judge Mr Justice Adrian Colton said Haggarty’s was a case of “exceptional gravity”.

He 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.

“The fact he was involved directly in multiple terrorist murders must be an aggravating factor," he said.

The judge acknowledged those who become informers face torture and execution if caught.

However, he said Haggarty’s was not a Road to Damascus conversion, rather one motivated by self-interest, but said he had given “substantial” assistance to prosecutors.

The PPS is challenging the sentencing on the grounds the sentence was too lenient.

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