9 Mar 2012

A former loyalist turned assisting offender has failed in a High Court challenge to the PSNI’s refusal to provide his interview tapes.

On Friday, senior judges ruled that Gary Haggarty’s bid should be dealt with at his criminal trial.

The 39 year old is on remand charged with the murder of taxi driver William Harbinson in May 1997.

Lawyers for Mr Haggarty previously disputed that information in the tapes was too sensitive to disclose.

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

Some 30,000 pages of material and 760 interview tapes have been amassed from interviews conducted with him.

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

His lawyers challenged the denial of tape recordings, claiming there was an obligation under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 Code of Practice.


The Belfast court heard that the police were prepared to disclose transcripts of SOCPA interviews dealing with Mr Haggarty’s own criminality, but the release of tapes focusing on the alleged offending of others was regarded as inappropriate.

Ruling on the case, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, Lord Justice Higgins and Mr Justice Treacy held that the secretary of state had no power to regulate such questioning under the codes of practice.

Sir Declan said: “There is nothing in the language to suggest that it applies to other interviews, some of which may not be relevant to the matter charged or intended to be prosecuted.”

Mr Haggarty had brought judicial review proceedings over the non-disclosure of the recordings, claiming his trial and any proceedings at which he appears as a prosecution witness could be delayed.

His barrister, Karen Quinlivan QC, claimed in February that it was irrational of police to deny him the recordings.

Mr Haggarty is also accused of eight other offences, including membership of a proscribed organisation and directing a terrorist organisation.

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