How many murders can a police informer get away with?
March 8, 2018 4:01 PM   Subscribe

Last year Northern Irish paramilitary Gary Haggarty pleaded guilty to hundreds of violent crimes, including many killings – while working for the British state.
posted by the man of twists and turns (5 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
In 2011, John Stevens, the former Scotland Yard commissioner who conducted three investigations during two decades into allegations of collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and the British state in Northern Ireland, told a parliamentary committee that his team had arrested 210 people, and only three were not working for the police or military intelligence.

There are no words.

Weighing up the benefits of the intelligence that informers provided against the costs of the violent chaos that they unleashed is all but impossible. Can it be calculated on a crude, mathematical basis, counting the lives lost against the lives saved? How to factor in the disruptive impact of informers, and the way people may have left paramilitary organisations – or decided against joining – because they feared they would be exposed by a tout? How demoralising was it for paramilitary organisations to realise they had “a tout in the house” – that someone among their number was providing information to the enemy?

On the other hand, when an informer was able to kill and not face arrest, how often did his victim’s brothers or cousins or friends decide to take up arms to exact revenge? Did the crimes of informers exacerbate and prolong the conflict?

posted by roolya_boolya at 5:13 PM on March 8 [4 favorites]

Nobody can bollix it all up quite like British intelligence working the Troubles. Christ.
posted by notsnot at 6:04 PM on March 8 [3 favorites]

So Haggarty was effectively sentenced to 35 years, because that was the length of his longest individual sentence and the learned judge must have ordered that all sentences be served simultaneously. He was granted a 75% reduction for having been an informer, and an additional 25% on that for pleading guilty. That leaves 3/16 of the original sentence or just over 6 1/2 years. But! He would have been eligible to apply for release after two years, and since he had spent four years "helping police with their enquiries" while remanded in custody he ... well, he was basically just released.

This is quite a surprising result for five murders and five hundred other offenses (including those taken into consideration. It's especially surprising considering that Haggerty's evidence, which would be invaluable in prosecuting police, was deemed to be too unreliable to use in prosecutions. Some people might question whether prosecutors were making an embarrassing problem go away by effectively neutralising a dangerous witness.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:54 PM on March 8

Nobody can bollix it all up quite like British intelligence working the Troubles. Christ.

To be fair, the CIA in Iran gave them a run for their money.
posted by flabdablet at 10:17 PM on March 8

Utterly vile. And yet here in the UK people who would pride themselves on enthusiastically supporting South African anti apartheid activity totally refuse to see that the republican struggle for freedom from British rule is remotely the same animal. Collusion was terror on another level.
posted by RandomInconsistencies at 2:46 PM on March 9

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