Belfast Telegraph

Life sentence for terror victims

Editor's Viewpoint

The murder of RUC Reservist John Proctor in 1981 was a callous act even by the standards of brutality and viciousness which existed during those dark days of the Troubles. He was shot dead as he left the Mid Ulster Hospital in Magherafelt where his wife June had given birth to their son a few days earlier.

It was a time which should have been the happiest in the lives of that couple. Instead June heard the volley of shots that took her husband's life as she waiting at the ward window to wave goodbye to him.

Like so many other people bereaved during the Troubles she has had to live with the terrible consequences of that act of terrorism every day of the intervening 33 years. Her son, now a grown man, never knew his father.

Justice, when it came, was only partial. One of the IRA killers was jailed in 2013 for the murder but will be released later this year under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. That is a difficult pill which many people bereaved in historic crimes have had to swallow in the interests of the peace process.

But it seems the perpetrators of the crimes take no account of the sorrow and pain they have caused.

The man convicted of killing John Proctor has applied to get out of jail for 48 hours to enjoy St Patrick's Day and watch his Gaelic football club take part in an all-Ireland final.

Has he no feelings for the family he destroyed? To apply to be released from prison for a party and to watch a sporting fixture is rubbing salt in a still-festering wound. Many people would say that prisoners in his position who only have to serve two years of their sentence because of the peace agreement got a very good deal and should be kept behind bars for all of that period before being released.

Victims like June Proctor and her son Johnnie never get released from their loss. They cannot go back to a good life and Johnnie can never go to a football match with his dad.

To make matters worse, June was not even aware of the prisoner's bid for two days' freedom until informed by this newspaper, even though the justice system should tell her any time he gets out of jail.

Of course we cannot undo the past but it sometimes seems that the feelings of the victims of terrorism are the least considered.Yes, there are many fine platitudes spoken and promises of aid made but does anyone who has not walked in their shoes really understand the hurt that gnaws at them every day?

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