Bid to return supergrasses to prison

editorial image

One of the men acquitted of murder at a major supergrass trial has launched a legal bid to have two brothers who provided flawed evidence against him face a possible return to jail.

Jason Loughlin is challenging the Public Prosecution Service’s decision not to refer self-confessed UVF members Robert and Ian Stewart back to the judge who slashed their prison sentences in return for becoming assisting offenders.

The pair were held to have lied in court as they testified against Mr Loughlin and 11 other men ultimately cleared of all charges linked to the paramilitary feud murder of UDA boss Tommy English in 2000 and dozens of other terror-related offences.

Both brothers had owned up to their involvement in the assassination plot and other serious crimes.

Their 22-year sentences were reduced to three years in jail as part of the agreement to give evidence against alleged former associates.

But despite acknowledging the Stewarts broke the terms of the deal, the PPS decided not to seek to have their original sentences re-imposed.

It was concluded that the breaches did not have a significant impact on the outcome of the supergrass trial in 2012.

Now, however, 38-year-old Mr Loughlin, from Newtownabbey, is seeking to judicially review the senior prosecutor’s decision.

A panel of senior judges in Belfast was told yesterday that the Stewart brothers should be brought back to the Crown Court under the terms of the Serious Organised Crime Police Act for breaching their assisting offender agreements.

David Scoffield QC, for Mr Loughlin, said the trial judge had identified their evidence as being “shot through with rank dishonesty”.

But the High Court hearing before Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, Mr Justice Weir and Mr Justice Treacy had to be adjourned after the last-minute introduction of a new ground of challenge.

Mr Scoffield contended that all of the alleged breaches by the brothers were not properly examined.

“In our submission, the prosecutor has taken an impermissible shortcut,” he claimed.

Following discussions, the judges decided to adjourn the hearing until the autumn.

Acknowledging any delay could impact on the Stewarts, Sir Declan added: “They remain at risk and uncertain of their position until judgment is given.”