Accused refuse to take stand in UVF trial

The 14 accused men at the centre of the UVF Supergrass trial in Belfast will not give evidence on their own behalf.

They deny a series of charges made on the word of brothers Robert and Ian Stewart.

The Crown Court trial of the men, includes the alleged former UVF leader in north Belfast, Mark Haddock.

In Belfast on Tuesday, lawyers revealed that the accused would not be taking the witness box in their own defence.

The judge asked if the defendants were aware that the court “may draw such inference as it deems proper”.

The defence lawyers in turn informed the judge that they had advised their clients as to the implications,

Although the 13 remaining accused are not giving evidence, one of them, Ronald Trevor Bowe, will be calling a doctor to give medical evidence.

Last week the judge in the UVF Supergrass trial refused to stop the long-running proceedings.

But he threw out a number of charges against some of the accused because the evidence against them was “weak”.

Lawyers for the accused had urged Mr Justice Gillen to acquit all the men on all of the charges because they said the unsupported evidence of brothers Robert and Ian Stewart was totally and completely unworthy of belief.

The defendants involved in the case are implicated in a catalogue of UVF terror crimes. Nine of the accused are charged with the 2000 murder of rival UDA chief Tommy English who was gunned down in his Ballyduff home.

In a 35 minute ruling at Belfast Crown Court on Friday morning (January 20), Mr Justice Gillen said he was acquitting the defendants on charges relating to two punishment beatings.

One defendant David Jason Smart, 38, from Milewater Close, Newtownabbey, was freed from the dock after the court heard that the prosecution were not challenging the judge’s ruling.

The trial, billed as one of the biggest and most expensive cases in British legal history, began in September and was due to last three months, and it continues.