Page last updated at 13:32 GMT, Friday, 5 March 2010

UVF 'grasses' short sentences over UDA feud murder part

North Belfast UVF mural

Two brothers who committed dozens of terrorist crimes will serve as little as three years in jail because they have turned "supergrass".

Newtownabbey men David Stewart, 35, of Carntall Rise, and Robert Stewart, 39, of Ballyearl Court were in the UVF.

Belfast Crown Court heard last month they would give evidence against nine other men charged with murder.

With time spent in jail on remand taken into account they may be eligible for release by the end of summer 2011.

Judge Mr Justice Hart said the short sentences reflected their co-operation.

He said the information they had provided led to "a significant number of arrests for serious crimes over a substantial period".

Outlining how he set the tariff the judge said that for their "important, but subsidiary" role in the slaying of UDA leader Tommy English in 2000 the Stewarts would have received a minimum term of 22 years' imprisonment.

Their assistance to police saw this reduced by 75% to 5½ years' imprisonment and the judge said he was also taking into consideration their guilty pleas and personal circumstances.

Kidnapping

He said they must serve just three years of life sentences before they can be considered by the Parole Commission for release on licence.

However, with time they have spent on remand since August 2008 being taken into account in effect they will be eligible for this in 18 months.

Tommy English
Tommy English was shot dead in Newtownabbey in October 2000

The Stewart brothers went to the police in 2008 to confess to their part in the murder of English on 31 December 2000.

As a result they were charged with aiding and abetting the murder and a number of other related offences.

In December 2008 they pleaded guilty to the charges and were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Following their conviction for the first set of offences, Robert Stewart admitted his involvement in 96 further offences committed between 1990 and 2008.

David Stewart, who goes by the first name Ian, admitted his involvement in 24 further offences committed between 1994 and 2008.

Many of these offences were of a very serious nature including attempted murder, kidnapping and wounding, assault and a pipe bomb attack on the home of a witness in a forthcoming trial.

Other offences included robbery, burglary, theft, extortion, arson and affray.

Family

Mr Justice Hart said that it was clear that both defendants were deeply involved in terrorist crime for many years which culminated in their role in the murder of English "during a vicious feud".

He said "terrorist organisations - loyalist and republican alike" sought to portray themselves as "as defenders and protectors" of their communities.

In reality he said they "were nothing more than gangs who robbed, stole, destroyed property and assaulted people who crossed them, or who they considered were guilty of real or imagined 'anti-social crimes', and enforced their reign of terror by threats, violence and murder".

Mr Justice Hart warned the brothers that if they failed to live up to their agreement under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act of 2005, they would face re-sentence, which could see them serving the minimum of 22 years.

Afterwards, speaking outside the court, David English said his family were "happy enough" with the sentences handed down to the Stewart brothers and thanked the Historical Enquiries Team for their handling of the case.

Tommy English's wife, Doreen, said she was also "content" with the sentences "on the basis that we will get the real perpetrators of my husband's murder and hopefully, 25-year life sentences".

"It will be worth it in the long run," she said.



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