Slowdown of Supergrass trial

Published Sunday, 25 September 2011
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From the word go Mr Justice Gillen indicated he was taking no nonsense during this trial.

On day one he demanded all those in the dock...

Former UVF commander Mark Haddock - and thirteen of his former associates MUST be court in plenty of time for the 10.30am start.

The judge clearly wanted this trial to run like clockwork.

For this is one of the biggest, and because of the size of it, is likely to turn out to be one of the most expensive trials in decades.

Week one started well...

Key witness Robert Stewart began giving evidence on the second day.

In return for a reduced sentence, he and his brother have admitted involvement in dozens of crimes including the murder of UDA leader Tommy English...

...and implicated all those in the glass-enclosed dock in court number 12.

Mark Haddock, who is also believed to be a police agent, is the only one in custody because of fears for his safety. He sits separately from his former allies - flanked by prison guards.

Week two came...and it all slowed down.

Robert Stewart was still under cross-examination - and under strain.

So much so that the case had to be adjourned.

Stewart was seen by a psychiatrist and returned to the witness box on Wednesday morning.

But he only lasted an hour...

Stewart would not be returning to the witness box that week.

In the meantime, other witnesses had to be called.

An alleged victim of a so-called punishment beating took to the witness box but refused to give evidence.

His brother, father and another man also took the same stance.

Mr Justice Gillen warned that refusing to testify would result in contempt of court.

Witnesses were getting thin on the ground.

On Thursday, Tommy English's widow gave evidence, recalling how she tried to fight off her husband's killers before he was shot dead in front of her, and their children, at their Newtownabbey home in 2000.

Friday came and the case had to be adjourned earlier than planned because the court had run out of evidence to hear.

Mr Justice Gillen pulled no punches.

He accused both prosecution and defence lawyers of wasting public funds in their handling of witnesses.

The judge said he was "anxious that we make maximum use of time to ensure that public money is properly saved".

So, what do we expect come week three?

If Robert Stewart is still not fit to give evidence, other witnesses will be called.
Then on Tuesday, his brother Ian Stewart will take to the witness box.

Fourteen weeks have been set aside for this trial, but if it continues the way it's going, it could take much longer, or come to an abrupt halt.

© UTV News
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Sharon O'Neill
Sharon O'Neill

Sharon is a graduate of the University of central Lancashire in Preston. She graduated with a 2:1 degree in journalism. She was a mature student - (though she didn't act it at times!)

After studying she freelanced for both the Irish News and Belfast Telegraph, then she was a sub-editor at the Daily Mirror despite some terrible spelling. Then she got a job as a reporter with the Irish News and two years later became their chief reporter.

She then moved to UTV and went in front of the camera, though she insists she's not a natural. She finds every day can be memorable in its own little way.

In her spare time she loves keeping fit, feeding her coffee addiction and the occasional dance.

Her phrase of choice is 'Let's check out of this cheap hotel'.

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