Northern Ireland

PPS to appeal UVF 'supergrass' Gary Haggarty's sentence

Garry Haggarty Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Gary Haggarty, 45, was sentenced for more than 200 offences, including five murders

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) is appealing the six-and-a-half year sentence given to loyalist "supergrass" Gary Haggarty last month.

Gary Haggarty, 45, was a former leader of an Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) unit in north Belfast.

Haggarty was a paid police informer for 11 years.

He was given a reduced tariff for agreeing to give evidence against other UVF members he said were involved in his crimes.

The PPS is challenging the sentence on the grounds that it was too lenient.

Families of victims of the former UVF commander said they had been failed by the justice system after he was sentenced for more than 500 offences including five murders.

After turning state witness in 2009, Haggarty provided information on 55 loyalist murders and 20 attempted murders in the course of 1,015 police interviews.

However, only one man is to be prosecuted, for two murders, on the back of the evidence.

The vast majority of people named by Haggarty in his police interviews will not face prosecution amid state concerns about a lack of supporting evidence.

Who are the UVF?

During the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the Ulster Volunteer Force murdered more than 500 people.

The loyalist paramilitary group's campaign also claimed the lives of 33 people in bomb attacks in Dublin and Monaghan in 1974.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Haggarty was a former commander of an Ulster Volunteer Force unit in the Mount Vernon area of north Belfast

The organisation's name dates back to the Protestant force formed to oppose Home Rule in 1912.

The name was revived in 1966 as loyalists came together to oppose liberal unionism and what it saw as a rise in Irish nationalism, centred on the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.

The UVF's political wing, the Progressive Unionist Party, played a prominent role in the peace process and supported the 1998 Belfast Agreement.

Five murders

Haggarty admitted murdering:

  • Catholic Sean McParland, who was shot while babysitting in Belfast in 1994
  • John Harbinson, a Protestant, who was handcuffed and beaten to death by a UVF gang on the Mount Vernon estate in north Belfast in May 1997
  • Catholic workmen Eamon Fox, 44, a father of six, and Gary Convie, 24, a father of one, shot dead as they had lunch together in a car in Belfast's North Queen Street in May 1994
  • Sean McDermott, a 37-year-old Catholic found shot dead in his car near Antrim in August 1994

He also admitted five attempted murders, including against police officers, 23 counts of conspiracy to murder and directing terrorism.

The judge also took into consideration a further 301 lesser offences in his judgement.

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