Allison Morris: Hopes for justice lie in tatters as Haggarty's crimes go unpunished

Kieran Fox (son of Eamon Fox) , Jackie Larkin (Sister of Gerald Brady) and Joe Convie (Father of Gary Convie) following news that evidence from a loyalist supergrass Gary Haggarty will not be used against 11 paramilitaries and two police officers. Picture Mal McCann.

The hopes of the many victims of the Mount Vernon UVF lay in tatters yesterday as the PPS announced it was not proceeding with the case against 13 suspects including two special branch officers name by 'supergrass' Gary Haggarty.

It has taken seven years and millions of pounds of public money to establish the UVF killer who admitted hundreds of serious criminal offences, including murder, will not make a reliable prosecution witness.

The use of the controversial Serious Organised Crime and Police Act in Northern Ireland against former paramilitary members has been a complete failure.

Haggarty has already pleaded guilty to 202 terror offences, including five murders and more than 300 other offences were taken into consideration.

The fact his evidence may not ever be used against his former paramilitary associates is a failing of massive proportions.

That allegations of the most serious kind against two special branch handlers, who Haggarty claimed helped direct his murderous activity, will not now be tested in court has rightly angered those who have campaigned tirelessly for justice.

Read more: Sick RUC handler part of the reason for PPS not prosecuting 13 accused by Gary Haggarty

Use of 'supergrass' evidence under the spotlight again

In 2012 evidence given by brothers Ian and Robert Stewart against a number of UVF men charged with murder collapsed as the judge ruled them unreliable saying their testimony was 'dripping with lies'.

And yet the pair who confessed a raft of crimes, including sex offences with underage girls, received a drastically reduced sentence, new lives and identities.

The following year and the PPS offered no further evidence in a case connected to the murder of Sunday World journalist Martin O'Hagan in 2001.

Neill Hyde confessed to 48 LVF linked offences and agreed to give evidence against those alleged to have murdered the journalist.

The PPS had referred Hyde's case back to court amid allegations that he did not tell the "full truth" in his dealings with the authorities, he was still granted a reduced sentence and new life for both himself and his family.

UVF man Gary Haggarty claimed his former RUC handlers encouraged him to target a number of men for murder.

And so questions are rightly being asked after the previous failures why it has taken until now to rule Haggarty's evidence as unreliable, and why have his victims been forced to wait so many years in the hope that they might finally see justice.

The magnitude of yesterday's ruling should not be underestimated. Haggarty had pleaded guilty to more crimes than any other person during the history of Northern Ireland's bloody conflict.

The level of Haggarty's criminality, the murderous activity of the informer ridden Mount Vernon UVF would have been laid bare at any trial.

More embarrassing for the state, the activities of RUC Special branch who paid the wages of the murderous gang had the potential to lay bare a shocking vista of collusion and official endorsement of sectarian murder.

With over three years served on remand Haggarty is not expected to receive any further prison time and a new life in witness protection awaits him.

For the families of his victims who have waited in some cases over 20 years for answers and justice there is no new life, no escaping from the past, just a reluctant acceptance of an appalling justice system failure.

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