Northern Ireland

Jason Loughlin challenges PPS's Stewart brothers decision

Court artist's impression of Robert and Ian Stewart
Image caption Ian Stewart and his brother, Robert, gave evidence against 14 alleged former UVF colleagues

One of the men acquitted of murder in a UVF supergrass trial has launched a legal bid to have the two key witnesses face a possible return to jail.

Convicted killers Robert and Ian Stewart became so-called supergrasses at the trial of alleged members of the north Belfast UVF.

The trial judge said the brothers had lied in part of their evidence.

However, the Public Prosecution Service decided not to refer them back to the judge who slashed their jail sentences.

They had been given a reduced sentence, three years instead of 22, for the murder of Tommy English in October 2000 in return for becoming assisting offenders.

Jason Loughlin is challenging the PPS's decision.

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 Mr English in 2000 and dozens of other terror-related offences.

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.

'Impermissible shortcut'

A panel of senior judges in Belfast was told on Thursday 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.

A 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.

The barrister 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."

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