Top loyalist Haggarty granted bail

Published Thursday, 22 November 2012
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A former top loyalist charged with murder has been granted bail - on condition he keeps his whereabouts secret.

Top loyalist Haggarty granted bail
The brief hearing was held at Belfast Magistrates' Court on Thursday. (© Pacemaker)

Gary Haggarty has been held on remand at Maghaberry Prison since agreeing to testify against former associates in return for a lighter sentence.

The 40-year-old from north Belfast is charged with killing taxi driver William Harbinson in May 1997.

He is also accused of eight other offences, including directing terrorism, UVF membership, conspiracy to murder, and firearms and explosives offences.

Charges were brought against him following a new investigation by detectives from the Historical Enquiries Team.

In January 2010, he agreed to become an assisting offender under the terms of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA).

Haggarty's lawyers successfully applied for bail during a brief hearing at Belfast Magistrates' Court on Thursday.

No details were disclosed of where he will live, and a series of conditions and restrictions were imposed on him.

These include that

  • he must stay at an address approved by police
  • he must surrender all passports to police and inform them of any travel plans 24 hours in advance
  • he must make himself available to police when required and attend all court hearings
  • he must not provide any information that could lead to the disclosure of his location or ongoing arrangements
  • he must not contact or associate with any potential witnesses or defendants referred to during his interviews with police.

As part of the SOCPA pact, Haggarty underwent a debriefing process involving regular phased interviews at a secret location in Britain.

Some 30,000 pages of material and 760 interview tapes were amassed from the interviews.

During the process he disclosed his own criminal conduct and made allegations about police wrongdoing.

Earlier this year, he failed in a legal challenge to the PSNI's refusal to provide him with the interview tapes.

Although police were prepared to disclose material dealing with Haggarty's own criminality after charging, he was denied tapes focusing on the alleged offending of others.

Three High Court judges ruled in March that the Secretary of State has no power to regulate such questioning under the codes of practice.

They decided that the former senior loyalist had brought a collateral challenge to issues which should be dealt with during his criminal trial.

Haggarty's case is due to be mentioned again next month, with committal proceedings expected next year.

In the meantime, he has also been banned from taking alcohol and ordered not to engage in any criminal activity.

© UTV News
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