Evidence provided by paramilitary commander turned supergrass Gary Haggarty has been deemed “insufficient” to secure the prosecution of 13 UVF suspects, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has said.
Barra McGrory had been considering the information provided to police by “assisting offender” Haggarty who has already pleaded guilty to five murders and 200 other terrorist offences.
A decision on three further suspects is expected to be announced soon.
In a statement released today, the DPP said: “Assessing the credibility of an assisting offender is a complex task. In relation to Gary Haggarty, given all the relevant circumstances including his admitted criminality, I consider that his evidence alone is insufficient to prove an allegation beyond a reasonable doubt.
“I have reached the clear view that where he has provided information implicating another, there must be sufficient corroborating evidence to support the allegations for a case to meet the Test for Prosecution.”
The statement adds: “On this basis, I have considered three murder files involving 14 suspects submitted by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and one file relating to the conduct of two police officers submitted by the Office of the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland (OPONI).
“The PSNI investigations relate to the murders of Gary Convie and Eamon Fox on 18 May, 1994; Sean McParland on 24 February 1994 and John Alan Harbinson on 18 May 1997.
“The OPONI investigations have focused on the alleged actions of two police officers in relation to 16 incidents, including these murders.
“Full and careful consideration has been given to all of the evidence currently available in respect of all cases.
“I have now concluded that the evidence currently available is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction against 11 of the suspects reported by the PSNI and the two police officers reported by OPONI. I have therefore taken a decision that a prosecution case against these individuals will not be taken forward.”
The statement goes on to say: “Further enquiries are ongoing in relation to the remaining three suspects, one of whom was reported in relation to the murders of Mr Convie and Mr Fox and two of the suspects named in the murder of Mr Harbinson. No decision as to prosecution has been taken in these cases.
“The Court has been informed of the nature and extent of the assistance provided by Gary Haggarty ahead of the sentencing hearing. We anticipate that we will be in a position to update the Court shortly on our view in relation to the status of all of the files submitted to us.
“I fully appreciate that this news will be deeply disappointing for the victims in these cases. I understand that this will not just be because of the disappointment or anger they may feel about the decisions but also because today is another day where they will be revisiting the pain of events from many years ago.
“I have written to each person affected by these decisions today to set out in some detail the reasoning behind the decisions taken to date and to offer to meet with any that might find this useful.
“I hope that they can take some assurance from the care and time taken by the prosecution team to ensure that every prosecutorial avenue has been fully explored in each case.”