Belfast Telegraph

Editor's viewpoint: Supergrass Haggarty case has let down the victims

The collapse of the loyalist supergrass case involving former UVF commander Gary Haggarty involves heavy costs on several fronts.

The obvious one is the bill for this complex investigation involving 16 people that Haggarty agreed to give evidence against as an assisting offender. Spanning several years, 1,000 interviews by police running to 12,000 pages of evidence, a probe by the Police Ombudsman and the legal scrutiny of the completed evidence, the financial cost could easily run into the millions. That would also take into account the relocation and new identity for Haggarty.

While a failed trial would have added considerably to the bill, the decision by the Public Prosecution Service to drop the case against 11 former paramilitaries and two police officers named by Haggarty has an even more serious cost - the loss of confidence in the whole process by the families of those murdered by Haggarty and his fellow loyalist terrorists.

Like so many other bereaved relatives in Northern Ireland, they had hoped to gain some sort of closure of the trauma they have endured for decades. They felt this prosecution could give them some answers as to why their loved ones were killed and by whom. There could also be retribution if convictions were obtained.

But PPS director Barra McGrory explained that in spite of all the effort put into this investigation, there was insufficient corroborating evidence to make a successful prosecution a reasonable prospect.

The relatives have every right to feel both disappointed and angry. They have, as Mr McGrory conceded, revisited the trauma of their loved ones' deaths and gained nothing in return. However, a decision has yet to be made on prosecutions against three other men Haggarty gave evidence against.

The concept of using paramilitaries - so-called supergrasses, now renamed assisting offenders - has had an inglorious history in the province. Doubts remain about the credibility of those who give evidence in return for reduced sentences, and even where convictions were obtained in the past, many were overturned on appeal.

In this case - at least to date - the only person to gain is Haggarty. He admitted 202 offences, including five murders, but will serve a much reduced sentence because of assistance given to police.

To the bereaved families, it doesn't seem like justice.

Belfast Telegraph

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