Supergrasses 'damaged public trust'

Published Thursday, 22 March 2012
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The Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland has told the Justice Committee that the supergrass system has been undermined.

Supergrasses 'damaged public trust'
Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory appeared at Stormont on Thursday. (© UTV)

Last month, 12 men were cleared of a number of charges including murder, after two brothers testified against them in return for reduced sentences.

The self-confessed UVF members Robert and Ian Stewart gave evidence at one of the biggest and most expensive trial in Northern Ireland for decades.

A judge labelled their testimony as "infected with lies" and said the Stewart brothers were "witnesses of very bad character who have lied to the police and to the court".

On Thursday, Barra McGrory said the case damaged public confidence in the use of supergrass and that he is seeking outside legal advice.

Justice Committee chair Paul Girvan said he wants to see a review of the legislation that permits supergrass cases.

"I think [Barra McGrory] is answering for a decision taken by his predecessor but he firmly is taking the decision of future cases using assisting offender legislation, so the buck will stop with him.

"He needs to be sure that confidence exists within the legislation to take it forward because clearly at the moment there is not that confidence," added Mr Girvan.

Committee colleague Raymond McCartney said he is against the use of supergrasses, as previous trials in the 1980s also failed.

"We are in a new place and nothing should be done to undermine that," he told UTV

"The use of accomplice evidence, the Stewart brothers case just showed how flawed a piece of legislation that is and I think all we're doing is compounding the problem if we continue on with this process."

Mr McGrory and PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott have both previously stated their commitment to the supergrass trial system.

© UTV News
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