Leading article

Haggarty case raises disturbing issues

The vast majority of people reading the details of the horrific murders and lengthy list of shocking paramilitary crimes committed by Gary Haggarty, will share the view of victims' families that the six and a half year sentence handed down by Belfast Crown Court does not represent justice.

Indeed, if there was true justice in this disturbing case it would involve this man facing many years behind bars for the appalling crimes he committed between 1991 and 2007.

Although it was expected that the UVF killer and Special Branch informer would get a reduced sentence after agreeing to give evidence against his former colleagues, Monday's court hearing and outcome was nevertheless extremely difficult for the relatives of his victims.

The Haggarty case is yet another dark chapter in the history of the Troubles and how the security forces dealt with agents within the ranks of paramilitary organisations.

Haggarty was a member of the notorious Mount Vernon UVF yet while acting as an informer for 11 years, he carried out hundreds of offences.

Last year he pleaded guilty to 202 crimes including five murders, one of aiding and abetting murder, five charges of attempted murder and 23 counts of conspiracy to murder. He also asked for a further 301 offences to be taken into consideration.

Anyone responsible for such a catalogue of serious crime is clearly a dangerous and ruthless individual, his actions completely unconscionable.

The terror and suffering he and his cohorts inflicted on innocent people - men like Sean McParland, shot dead while babysitting his grandchildren, or Gary Convie and Eamon Fox, murdered as they ate their lunch on a building site - cries out for justice, not reward.

The decision not to prosecute police officers has compounded the deep sense of anger surrounding this case.

Searching questions need to be asked of the police who ran this man as a paid informer and who failed to protect the public.

The families who feel they have been denied justice should at least be given the truth.

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Leading article