5 May 2005 Edition

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UDA members to tell all on cohorts

It emerged at Belfast High Court on Wednesday 27 April that two UDA members currently in protective custody, are to give evidence against six men accused of membership of the loyalist paramilitary organisation and of drug offences.

This is the first time in over 20 years, since the notorious paid perjurer trials of the 1980s, that the British have used "informer evidence" in this way.

Barrister Catherine McKay told the court that after Noel Lee and Freddie Hamilton, who were known to the defendants, informed the PSNI about a drug dealing operation, the PSNI launched an investigation into UDA money laundering and drug dealing. McKay said both men were now in a witness protection programme. Their testimony will be the main evidence at the trial.

Five of those accused are from Newtownards with the sixth from Greencastle, County Antrim. All face various drug related charges. One of the defendants was also charged with attempting to injure witness Noel Lee and with false imprisonment.

A seventh man, from Newtownards, was charged with drug offences and making money available for purposes of terrorism.

All seven were released on bail by Judge Hart.

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