A legal intervention has forced Crown prosecutors to revise a decision not to bring criminal charges against two former RUC Special Branch members who are believed to have directed and shielded loyalist serial killer Gary Haggarty.
The development followed a High Court challenge mounted by a relative of one of the victims of Haggarty, a UVF commander and British agent now understood to be living in luxury under the protection of the state.
Sean McParland was shot dead by Haggarty while babysitting his grandchildren in north Belfast in February 1994.
The murdered man’s son-in-law, Michael Monaghan, launched a legal challenge after prosecutors announced last October that it would not be charging two former RUC men implicated by Haggarty.
It was confirmed this week that the position will now be reviewed, with a fresh decision expected by the end of June. The judicial review proceedings were wound up on that basis.
The outcome comes just days after 46-year-old Haggarty was released from prison and handed a new identity.
At the end of January the double agent ‘confessed’ to five murders, five attempted murders and more than 500 offences. His catalogue of state-sponsored crime extended over 16 years, from 1991 to 2007. He received a six-year jail sentence but was eligible for release within weeks because of time served on remand.
Under the terms of the agreement signed back in 2010 he supplied information on scores of loyalist killings and attempted murders -- but only one man is currently to be prosecuted over a murder using his evidence.
Relatives of Sean McParland expressed scepticism about the prospects of further prosecutions in the case.
Mr McParland’s son-in-law Michael Monaghan, who was the intended target on the night his father-in-law was killed, said the family was given no prior notice of the double agent’s release from prison last week.
“Is this the PPS saying we will look at this again and then refuse it?” he said. “Is it just a procedure?”
Mr Monaghan said that his family’s ongoing campaign for justice has worn them out.
After he was shot Mr McParland was treated in hospital but died a week later. He had earlier had his voice box removed during a battle with cancer.
Mr Monaghan revealed that before he passed away, his father-in-law called him to his bedside. “He said ‘Better me than you, look after Sinead and the kids’. I had to lip read him. It does stick in the head.”
During court hearings it emerged that UVF members were due to toss a coin to see who would kill the innocent man but Haggarty volunteered.
Mr Monaghan said his family has been left deeply disappointed by his early release.
“He is just a serial killer,” he said. “He is going to have a decent life, a decent pension and a good life. It has taken its toll on our own family with stress - that this is our justice system.”
Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly said the families of the victims of Gary Haggarty had treated “disgracefully”.
“The state’s involvement in the murderous activities of Gary Haggarty, the Mount Vernon UVF and the state’s role in covering up and directing its activities continues to raise more questions than answers for the families of their victims,” he said.