Loyalist supergrass gets just 6.5yrs for murders

Loyalist supergrass gets six half yrs murders

Loyalist supergrass gets just six and half years for 5 murders

A former loyalist paramilitary boss turned police informer was this week sentenced by Belfast Crown Court to six-and-a-half years in prison for 202 terror offences between 1991 and 2007.

Those offences included at least five murders to which UVF gang boss Gary Haggarty, 46, pleaded guilty. He received the minimum sentence in return for giving evidence against other terrorist suspects.

Judge Mr Justice Adrian Colton, describing Haggarty’s offences as of “exceptional gravity” said: “The fact he was involved directly in multiple terrorist murders must be an aggravating factor.

“He has been involved in a terrorist campaign over a 16- year period that campaign has resulted in deaths for which he was directly responsible.

“The organisation he supported and assisted has resulted in untold damage to individual lives and society as a whole.”

The judge said Haggarty had not had a Damascene coversion but had motivated by self-interest. Nevertheless, the judge said, Haggarty had given “substantial” assistance to prosecutors. He acknowledged that among his former co-conspirators, informers face torture and execution if caught.

“(Haggarty) has been involved in a terrorist campaign over a 16-year period, that campaign has resulted in deaths for which he was directly responsible.

“The organisation he supported and assisted has resulted in untold damage to individual lives and society as a whole.”

Among those he murdered was grandfather Sean McParland, in February 1994, whom Haggarty shot dead in front of his children to cover up his own role as an informer, said the judge. The judge read part of the witness statement from the victim’s grandson, Michael, who was aged nine at the time and described the scene how masked gunmen burst into the house.

The judge said: “He could see his granddad in the living room, who had started to bend down and was flapping his arms.

“He was unable to speak because of a recent operation for throat cancer.”

He said Michael fled, then heard a shot and returned to see his granddad lying unconscious in the living room. For that murder Haggarty received the longest part of his sentence – 35 years in prison – but the judge then reduced it by 75 per cent in return for Haggarty’s assistance to prosecutors, and then reduced it by a further 25 per cent for his guilty plea, leaving him with six and a half years to serve in jail before he can apply for parole.

Haggarty was also entitled to credit time spent on remand in custody, awaiting sentence – a total of 1,186 days. Among the five murders admitted to by Haggarty were those of Gary Convie and Eamon Fox, two Catholic workmen shot dead as they ate lunch in their van in North Belfast in 1994.

The judge said: “The victims in this case were particularly vulnerable. “They were deliberately targeted because of their religion. “This was a terrorist offence and part of an ongoing sectarian campaign which rendered the offences especially grave.”

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-yearold 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. An investigation into the activities of Haggarty and the Mount Vernon UVF by former police ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Lady Nuala O’Loan, found that he was working as a special branch informant inside the organisation even while he was involved in murders, so-called punishment beatings and bomb attacks, The guardian reported.

The north Belfast loyalist turned police agent has been living at a secret location in England for several years during which time Haggarty, known to his associates as “Cowhead”, completed a computer science degree.

After the sentencing the son of murdered Eamon Fox, Kieran, expressed disbelief and disappointment at the leniency of the sentence: “You hear 35 years for this murder and 20 for this, you are thinking there is a possibility this guy could do some time.

“If you break it on down, he is a free man, he walks free, unreal. What is justice in this country? It is just designed to look after the criminal. How can a man convicted of that many crimes (202) be set free? The man is a serial killer, he was a paid State informer, he was allowed to kill at will, police knew he was killing at will and let it continue. You live by the sword, you die by the sword.

“All the families here today did not ask to be here, we were dragged into this through no fault of their own. The police could have prevented us being here today but did not, they were prepared to look after a criminal, a terrorist, to back him. It just seems life in this jurisdiction here, you are dispensable, it doesn’t matter, get on with it.

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