At the sharpest end of dealing with the past, whatever the arguments, the Haggarty case takes your breath away

Garry Haggarty

A Loyalist  “supergrass” who admitted the murders of five people among hundreds of offences has had a 35-year jail term reduced to six-and-a-half years for helping the police.

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

The judgment from Belfast Crown Court indicated that the 35-year jail term was reduced by 75% for the assistance given to prosecutors and then a further 25% for Haggarty’s plea of guilty.

With only one prosecution in a 16 year period, was it worth it?

The judge said that the 202 offences admitted by Haggarty had been committed during a “terrorist campaign over a 16-year period” between 1991 and 2007.

Keiran Fox, whose father, Eamon, was murdered by Haggarty, said he was a paid state informer who had been “allowed to kill at will.”.

Will this charge be specifically denied?

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

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

However, prosecutors are to mount a prosecution against only one man, for two murders, on the back of the evidence.

Haggarty has already served three years on remand.

So – out in less than three years.  But had all his crimes been committed before April 1998, he would have been released  immediately.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London