Haggarty prison sentence extended, but no return to jail

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A unionist paramilitary double agent who admitted the murders of five people and a catalog of other atrocities has had his prison sentence nominally increased by three-and-a-half years.

Gary Haggarty was a former leader of an Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) unit in north Belfast and a paid Special Branch agent for 11 years.

The Court of Appeal ruled in 2018 that the original six-and-a-half year sentence given to Haggarty, which saw him released after just four months, was too lenient. Haggarty was originally given a 35-year jail term before it was reduced for working with the the PSNI police (formerly the RUC).

Haggarty was said to have provided information on 55 loyalist murders and 20 attempted murders in the course of 1,015 police interviews. However, no one was ever prosecuted on the back of his ‘evidence’.

At the time, the sentencing of the multiple killer was described as “stage managed” by the Kevin Winters law firm, who represented some his victims; and as a “brazen cover-up” by Irish Republican News.

On Friday, the Court of Appeal considered that the minimum term before taking into account mitigating factors was 40 years. It said after applying the appropriate discounts, the sentence should have been ten years.

The court concluded that the sentence of six-and-a-half years was unduly lenient “given the catalogue of infamy and murder of which he was guilty”.

Haggarty has 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; and Sean McDermott, a 37-year-old Catholic found shot dead in his car near Antrim in August 1994.

He has also admitted five attempted murders and 23 counts of conspiracy to murder.

Haggarty is currently on a witness protection programme in a secret location outside the Six Counties. It is understood that, despite the increased sentence, he will not be returned to jail.

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