A so-called ‘supergrass’ and former loyalist paramilitary boss has been sentenced to just six and a half years after he pleaded guilty to murdering five people and committing 202 terror offences.
Gary Haggarty, 46, a former Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) leader, was originally sentenced to 35 years for his crimes – but that has been reduced due to his cooperation with police and evidence he gave against other terrorist suspects.
Haggarty was a UVF leader in north Belfast where he committed and oversaw brutal terrorist murders but he turned into a state witness in 2009.
He provided information on 55 Loyalist murders and 20 attempted murders, the Daily Record reports.
One individual is to be prosecuted over a murder using his evidence.
Belfast Crown Court heard he was a paid police informer for 11 years.
Judge Mr Justice Adrian Colton said Haggarty’s was a case of "exceptional gravity".
"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."
Such evidence provided a check against the belief that these people are "untouchable" and major criminals may otherwise escape justice, the judge said.
He acknowledged those who become informers face torture and execution if caught.
He said Haggarty’s was not a Road to Damascus conversion, rather one motivated by self-interest, but said he had given "substantial" assistance to prosecutors.
Haggarty admitted five murders. The Loyalist was involved in the killing of a Catholic man, Sean McParland, who was shot while babysitting in Belfast in 1994.
Another victim was John Harbinson, a Protestant, who was handcuffed and beaten to death by a UVF gang in Belfast in May 1997.
Two Catholic workmen, Eamon Fox, 44 , a father of six, and Gary Convie, 24 , a father of one, were also victims of Haggarty.
The pair were shot dead as they had lunch together in a car in Belfast’s North Queen Street in May 1994
The UVF leader was also responsible for the death of Sean McDermott, a 37-year-old Catholic who was shot in his car near Antrim in August 1994.
The judge said Haggarty was storing weapons for the UVF gang involved in the murders of Mr Convie and Mr Fox.
He obtained weapons for the killings and accompanied the gunman to the scene.
The judge said: "Although the defendant was not the actual gunman in this offence he played a crucial, central and vital role in this murder."
Haggarty admitted involvement in providing the weapon for the shooting of Mr McDermott.
He murdered Mr Harbinson when he was "provost marshal". A hammer was used to beat him to death.
The judge said: "After the beating the defendant went and got a carry-out and continued drinking in a nearby house.
"He made no attempt to obtain assistance or to otherwise help Mr Harbinson."