Prison releases a continual challenge to security, says QC who monitors terrorism
The former judge who monitors the terrorism risk in Northern Ireland has registered concern about the threat from individuals released on bail and from jail sentences.
Brian Barker QC was appointed last year as Independent Reviewer of National Security Arrangements in Northern Ireland.
In his newly-published assessment report on 2016, he stated: "The overall threat is real and enduring and broadly unchanged despite each recognisable group being somewhat disrupted and there being some relaxation of attitude in some communities.
"The exchange of intelligence and the evident cooperation between authorities continues to make inroads.
"As in recent years there have been successes and considerable effort devoted to containing and disrupting dissident groups.
"Nevertheless, planning and targeting continues and attacks occur.
"The threat from those released from custodial sentences and those given bail continues to present a challenge."
DUP MP Gavin Robinson said the security assessment contained "some deeply depressing findings" and "sets a challenge to each elected representative to ensure Northern Ireland does not recede back into the past of paramilitaries and terrorism".
The East Belfast MP also said: "The report has been helpful in pointing out the deficiencies of the criminal justice system in dealing with terrorist cases.
"There are serious problems with all too frequent lax bail conditions, which reinforce a softly, softly perception within our criminal justice system."
Detailing violent incidents through the year, the Barker report stated: "The number of shooting incidents related to the security situation for the 12 month period was 49, almost identical to that in 2015, while the number of bombing incidents, 27, was exactly half that recorded in 2015.
"There were six security/paramilitary related deaths in the period to December 31, 2016. This was three times the number of the previous year."
It also stated: "The aim of a more stable society, where the effect of local terrorism has a decreasing impact, seemed to have made some progress through 2016 despite a picture of continuing terrorist threat.
"It is clear, however, that police and prison officers face high risks, both on and off duty."
The report added: "Dissident republican groupings remain interested and involved in criminality, organised crime, and money laundering.
"They express political purpose, either with conviction or because it is necessary so as to obscure criminality.
"Loyalist paramilitaries claim political allegiance, although the motivation of many is crime and control through intimidation and violence."
Brian Barker QC was appointed to the monitoring role by the Northern Ireland Office.