Loyalist paramilitary commander turned supergrass sentenced in Belfast to six and a half years for five murders and almost 200 more terror offenses.
Victims’ families fumed when loyalist paramilitary commander turned supergrass Gary Haggarty was sentenced in Belfast to six and a half years for five murders and almost 200 more terror offenses.
Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) chief Haggarty, 45, a long-time paid police informer, pleaded guilty to a catalogue of serious crimes as his part of a controversial state deal that offered a significantly reduced prison term in return for giving evidence against other terrorist suspects.
The offenses stretched over 16 years from 1991 to 2007 and include the loyalist murders of John Harbinson, Sean McParland, Gary Convie, Eamon Fox and Sean McDermott. Four victims were Catholic. One, Harbison, was a Protestant.
After the sentencing on Monday, Ciaran Fox, whose father Eamon was murdered by Haggarty, said he was a paid state informer who had been “allowed to kill at will.”
He asked, “How can a man convicted of so many crimes be set free into society? He might come across as a nice guy but the man’s a serial killer.”
Haggarty also admitted five attempted murders, including against police officers; 23 counts of conspiracy to murder; directing terrorism; and membership of a proscribed organization.
The loyalist pleaded guilty to a total of 202 crimes. The judge also took into account 301 lesser offenses committed by the paramilitary godfather who was former boss of the UVF’s notorious north Belfast Mount Vernon unit.
He confessed to his crimes after signing his contentious supergrass deal following his arrest in 2009.
Since turning state witness, Haggarty provided information on 55 loyalist murders and 20 attempted murders in 1,015 police interviews.
However, there is to be a prosecution against only one man, for two murders, on the back of the evidence.
The vast majority of individuals named by Haggarty in his police interviews will not face prosecution amid concerns about a lack of supporting evidence.
At a pre-sentence hearing last year graphic details of Haggarty's confessions were outlined, as were claims that police failed to prevent loyalist murders, despite receiving advance warning from their high-ranking UVF informant.
Justice Adrian Colton said Haggarty’s crimes merited a minimum 35-year sentence, but he had given “substantial” assistance to prosecutors.
The judge added that Haggerty’s was not a road to Damascus conversion, but rather one motivated by self-interest.