A FORMER Loyalist paramilitary leader who admitted to murdering five people has had a 35-year jail term reduced to six-and-a-half-years for helping police.
Former UVF chief Gary Haggarty, 46, pleaded guilty to 202 terror offences including five murders as part of a controversial state to deal to reduce his sentence in return for evidence against other terror suspects.
Haggarty was a paid police informer for 11 years as part of the UVF’s infamous Mount Vernon unit in north Belfast.
The ‘supergrass’ turned against his former comrades when he became a state witness in 2009 – providing information about 55 loyalist murders and 20 attempted murders in the course of 1,015 police interviews.
However, only one man has been jailed on the back of Haggarty’s evidence.
The majority of people named by Haggarty in his police interviews will not face prosecution due to state concerns over a lack of supporting evidence.
Handing down his judgement at Belfast Crown Court today, Judge Mr Justice Adrian Colton said Haggarty’s original 35-year jail term was reduced by 75 percent for assisting police.
It was then reduced a further 25 percent for Haggarty’s guilty plea.
The judge said that the 202 offences admitted by Haggarty were committed during a "terrorist campaign over a 16-year period" between 1991 and 2007.
He said that Haggarty’s was a case of “exceptional gravity”, adding: “The organisation he supported and assisted has resulted in untold damage to individual lives and society as a whole.”
Haggarty admitted murdering:
- Sean McParland, a Catholic, who was shot dead while babysitting in Belfast in 1994;
- John Harbinson, a Protestant, who was handcuffed and beaten to death on the Mount Vernon estate in north Belfast in May 1997;
- Eamon Fox and Gary Convie, both Catholics, shot dead as they had lunch together in a car in Belfast’s North Queen Street in May 1993;
- Sean McDermott, a Catholic, shot to death in his car near Antrim in August 1994.
Haggarty also admitted to five attempted murders – including against police officers – and 23 counts of conspiracy to murder and directing terrorism.
Mr Justice Colton also took into consideration a further 301 lesser offences in his judgement.