Northern Ireland news

Supergrass Gary Haggarty to receive significantly reduced prison term for murder

Gary Haggarty
Michael McHugh, Press Association

A former loyalist paramilitary turned supergrass informer is due to be sentenced later.

Gary Haggarty, 45, received a contentious state deal which offered him a significantly reduced prison term for murder in exchange for giving evidence against other terrorism suspects in Northern Ireland.

The ex-Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) commander from North Belfast pleaded guilty in the summer to 202 terror offences, including five murders.

Because he has turned state evidence Haggarty is virtually certain to receive a discounted sentence when he appears at Belfast Crown Court later. He has already served three years in custody on remand so may spend no further time in prison.

He is to be used as a witness in the prosecution of suspected 1994 UVF murders, prosecutors have said.

Eamon Fox, 44, and Gary Convie, 24, were shot dead by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) in North Queen Street in Belfast as they ate lunch in their vehicle in 1994.

Prosecutors have said Haggarty's evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction against 11 other suspected UVF members and two former police intelligence officers, allegedly his then handlers.

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.

He was interviewed more than 1,000 times by detectives in one of the biggest and most complex cases undertaken in Northern Ireland.

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 former 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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