Northern Ireland news

Ruling out supergrass Gary Haggarty's evidence a 'betrayal of victims'

 Raymond McCord an outspoken critic of loyalist paramilitaries since a UVF gang beat his son Raymond Jnr to death in 1997. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Michael McHugh, Press Association

The authorities have betrayed victims by ruling out murder evidence from a loyalist supergrass, a prominent victims campaigner has said.

Raymond McCord said he was sickened by the treatment of former UVF commander and informer Gary Haggarty.

Haggarty accused 11 paramilitaries and two former police officers of involvement in murder.

Prosecutors said the evidence was insufficient to prove his claims.

Mr McCord said: "It was a betrayal of justice, a betrayal of victims' families"

Haggarty was a senior figure in a notorious North Belfast murder gang and pleaded guilty to five murders and 202 offences.

Mr McCord's son Raymond McCord junior was killed by the UVF in November 1997.

He added: "What the government, the paramilitary people behind the scenes, the political people have done, is stabbed the victims in the back.

"We don't matter."

The Public Prosecution Service said there was insufficient corroborating evidence to support the allegations levelled by Haggarty to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction.

Prosecutors are still considering the cases of three remaining suspects named by the killer and long-time police informer, related to three murders, with decisions expected by the end of the month.

In the summer, Haggarty (45) pleaded guilty to 202 terror offences, including five murders, in a contentious state deal that will see him receive a significantly reduced prison term in exchange for his evidence when he is sentenced at the end of the month.

He could theoretically walk free to enter a new life with a fresh identity, having already served three years in custody on remand - the equivalent of a six-year sentence.

Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory said assessing his credibility was a "complex task".

Mr McCord claimed the state did not want the case to go to court.

"The fear is of having to prosecute security force people past and present."

As well as the five murders, Haggarty, who is in protective custody, admitted five attempted murders, including against police officers; 23 counts of conspiracy to murder; directing terrorism; and membership of a proscribed organisation.

The catalogue of offences stretch over a 16-year period from 1991 to 2007 and include the loyalist murders of John Harbinson, Sean McParland, Gary Convie, Eamon Fox and Sean McDermott.

Haggarty, the boss of the UVF's notorious north Belfast Mount Vernon unit, provided evidence against others in relation to the murders of Mr Convie, Mr Fox, Mr McParland and Mr Harbinson.

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