'Secret supergrass' to testify over drugs

Published Monday, 27 February 2012
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Five days after the collapse of the UVF supergrass trial, it has emerged that another so-called 'assisting offender' is to give evidence in a major drugs case - and defence lawyers claim the PPS tried to keep it secret.

Back in the autumn of 2010, 13 men and two women were arrested in Portstewart and Londonderry and all of them were charged in connection with an alleged criminal operation to supply drugs.

They have already appeared in court several times over the past year-and-a-half but, unknown to any of the defence lawyers, one of the accused had already become what's known as an assisting offender.

Portstewart man Shaun McManus is one of the defendants, but is helping the case against his 14 co-accused.

Described in Coleraine Courthouse as "a supergrass", his role was known to police and the Public Prosecution Service but they kept it secret - prompting defence lawyers to accuse the PPS of misleading the courts, peddling misinformation and being mendacious to judges.

Defence lawyers have previously expressed concerns about how long it is taking prosecutors to proceed with this case.

They have said the PPS have blamed delays on the huge amount of evidence, the need to examine laptop computers, and the requirement for forensic accountancy reports.

A PPS lawyer said the case in question was difficult and complex and that prosecutors had to proceed carefully to protect the informer and his family.

But the existence of the supergrass only emerged by accident, when Shaun McManus was spotted entering a police station.

One lawyer said: "The history of supergrass trials in Northern Ireland showed that using a supergrass infected an entire prosecution, and we're seeing the uglier side of that here whereby the courts are being misled."

Defence teams have demanded the case should now proceed quickly or else be dismissed.

The judge, Mr Justice Richard Wilson, ordered prosecutors to be ready for a preliminary enquiry in four weeks' time or said he may take a course of action.

© UTV News
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4 Comments
seamus60 in Derry wrote (779 days ago):
Supergrass trials have been totally discredited over a period of decades and have no place in democratic society.
Mike in Antrim wrote (780 days ago):
Drug dealers should all be locked up and touts are sometimes the only way to get results.
D Mahood in Portstewart wrote (780 days ago):
I have followed this case from the beginning as I personnally know some of those charged. It has been well known in the area that a few of the young people charged were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The impact this has had on these young men has been atrocious! The main drug dealer in this area was arrested and then released "unconditionally" by police! He was then rearrested a number of weeks later, subsequently released on bail and just before Xmas was rearrested in Bangor on drugs charges!! This investigation has been ongoing for 16 months and the local community are watching with interest hoping the main culprit gets his just desserts before he ruins the lifes of any more young people! It is just unfortunate that innocent young people are getting their reputations and lives ruined because the Police get it wrong!!
Phil in Belfast wrote (780 days ago):
It's not like this guy is trying to do the right thing, hes trying to save his own bacon by squealing on his co accused. I'd give him more time than the rest of the people involved. Nothing worse than a tout!
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