A former LVF ‘enforcer’ given a reduced jail term for a catalogue of paramilitary crimes after turning state’s evidence has now lodged an appeal against his sentence – believing it to be too harsh.
Neil Hyde was sentenced to three years in prison earlier this month by Justice Patrick Lynch, who told him had he not agreed to become an ‘assisting offender’ he would be looking at an 18-year term.
The Lurgan man, whose crimes included arson, drug dealing and possession of firearms, is due for release in August next year, at which time he will enter into witness protection.
However, an application was lodged in the Court of Appeal yesterday to contest the length of the already reduced sentence.
In September 2008 Hyde was arrested and charged in connection with the 2001 murder of Sunday World journalist Martin O’Hagan near his Lurgan home. Also charged were Portadown brothers Drew and Robin King along with Lurgan man Nigel Leckey and Mark Kennedy, a Catholic from south Belfast.
However, in July 2010 all charges relating to the journalist’s murder were withdrawn by the prosecution service.
Hyde is believed to have named around 60 loyalists from the mid-Ulster area he claims were involved in paramilitary activity with the LVF and, prior to the formation of that group, the UVF.
The 32-year-old pleaded guilty to 48 offences linked to the outlawed LVF, of which he was a member, including two charges of withholding information in relation to a murder.
Hyde has told police that as well as the O’Hagan shooting, he knew details about the murder of Graham Edward Marks in Tandragee in April 2001.
Despite this no-one has to date been arrested or charged on foot of information supplied by Hyde.
Ciaran Shiels of Madden and Finucane solicitors, who represent both King brothers, said yesterday: “We have received no indication from the PSNI that they wish to interview our clients in relation to any allegations made by Hyde at this time nor have they been served with indictable summonses.
“The clients have indicated that they are available for interview if the PSNI wish to speak with them.”
Last week 13 loyalists were cleared of charges including the feud-related murder of UDA man Tommy English after a judge dismissed evidence supplied by two ‘supergrass’ brothers, Ian and Robert Stewart.
The Stewarts had been sentenced to three and a half years in jail after pleading guilty to hundreds of charges, and were released by parole commissioners after serving just over 18 months.
Hyde is expected to argue his prison sentence should have been suspended given the level of cooperation he gave to police. The appeal due to be heard in May.