Northern Ireland

PPS to review decision not to prosecute Gary Haggarty's Special Branch handlers

The Public Prosecution Service is to review a decision not to bring criminal charges against two retired police officers who allegedly directed and shielded notorious loyalist killer Gary Haggarty.

The development was revealed at a High Court challenge mounted by a relative of one of the UVF commander turned state informer's victims.

Sean McParland (55) was shot dead by Haggarty while babysitting his grandchildren at Skegoniel Avenue in north Belfast in February 1994. 

The murdered man's son-in-law, Michael Monaghan, launched a legal challenge after the PPS announced last October that it would not be charging two ex-Special Branch officers implicated by the former loyalist boss.

It had decided Haggarty's claims that he gave his police handlers advance warning about his terrorist acts was not enough to prove a case beyond reasonable doubt.

But in court today it was confirmed that the position will now be reviewed, with a fresh decision expected by the end of June. Ending the judicial review proceedings on that basis, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan ordered costs in favour of Mr Monaghan.

The outcome comes just days after 46-year-old Haggarty was released from prison and put into witness protection.

In January the so-called supergrass received a six-and-a-half-year jail sentence after confessing to more than 500 offences.

However, because of time served on remand he became eligible for release. His catalogue of paramilitary crime extended over 16 years, from 1991 to 2007, and included the murders of Mr McParland and four other men.

He also admitted five attempted murders, multiple counts of conspiracy to murder, directing terrorism and membership of a proscribed organisation.

Haggarty pleaded guilty as part of a controversial state deal which offered a reduced sentence in return for providing evidence on other terror suspects.

As a consequence his prison term was slashed from 35 years to six-and-a-half years due to the assistance provided to police.

Under the terms of the agreement signed back in 2010 he supplied information on scores of loyalist killings and attempted murders.

But only one man is currently to be prosecuted over a murder using his evidence.

It was previously reported that Haggarty claims he gave his Special Branch handlers the names of all those involved in Mr McParland's killing in the immediate aftermath.

He alleged they told him not to answer questions when arrested. Mr Monaghan's solicitor said his client will now wait for the new decision from the PPS.

Niall Murphy of KRW Law added: "That renders the current proceedings redundant because, in effect, we have gained the relief sought."