Hyde back to court amid deal breach claims

Neil Hyde
Neil Hyde

A LURGAN supergrass who turned states evidence in return for a lighter sentence is to be ordered back to court for an alleged deal breach.

Convicted loyalist Neil Hyde is the first ‘assisting offender’ to be ordered back to court for allegedly breaching a deal with prosecutors in relation to the murder of Lurgan journalist Martin O’Hagan.

Hyde could have years added to his sentence if a judge accepts the view of the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) that he reneged on his agreement to provide the authorities with a truthful account of events surrounding Mr O’Hagan’s murder.

Two other so-called assisting offenders from NI who received reduced terms, this time for giving evidence in a separate loyalist murder trial, have also been accused of breaking their contracts, but they are not being referred to court.

The decisions to refer the case of LVF member Hyde but not to make UVF members and brothers Robert and Ian Stewart face a judge, despite evidence they lied in court, were announced by the PPS on Tuesday. All three supergrasses are in witness protection and have been given new identities.

Hyde was given a substantially reduced term of three years - when facing a potential 18-year sentence for almost 50 LVF offences - after agreeing to become an assisting offender to authorities investigating the murder of Mr O’Hagan.

Earlier this year Director of Public Prosecution Barra McGrory said there would be no prosecutions on the basis of Hyde’s evidence. Mr McGrory claimed there was sufficient evidence to show Hyde breached his assisting offender agreement to give a truthful account.

A judge will decide whether he has broken his deal and, if so, will review the sentence he was offered. The PPS said the decision to refer the case to court is without precedent.

One of the offences Hyde was jailed for was conspiracy to carry a firearm with intent to wound in connection with Mr O’Hagan’s murder.

Mr McGrory said he could not go into detail on Hyde’s alleged breach as the case was set to go before a judge.

“The specified prosecutor in this case has concluded that there is sufficient evidence that Neil Hyde knowingly breached the terms of his agreement and that it is in the interests of justice that the case be referred back to the original sentencing court.”