Gary Haggarty: Ex-Loyalist paramilitary leader sentenced to six-and-a-half years for five murders and 202 terror offences
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Gary Haggarty: Ex-Loyalist paramilitary leader sentenced to six-and-a-half years for five murders and 202 terror offences

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.

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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.
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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.