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Murderer of prison officer Adrian Ismay had ‘fractured life’ which left him open to exploitation, Court of Appeal told

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Christie Robinson was convicted of murdering prison officer Adrian Ismay

Christie Robinson was convicted of murdering prison officer Adrian Ismay

Colm O'Reilly Sunday Life

Christie Robinson was convicted of murdering prison officer Adrian Ismay

A man convicted of murdering prison officer Adrian Ismay has led a “fractured” life which left him vulnerable to exploitation by others, the Court of Appeal heard today.

Counsel for Christopher Robinson, 51, claimed the minimum 22-year jail term he received for participating in the dissident republican under car bomb attack in March 2016 should be reduced due to his own adverse personal circumstances.

Arthur Harvey QC said: “The culpability of an individual who is quite literally as damaged as this man cannot be compared to that of a committed individual who is ruthlessly pursuing an objective beyond even just the death of one man, and is doing so objectively, rationally and with determination.”

Mr Ismay, 52, suffered serious leg injuries when the bomb exploded under the van he was driving near his home at Hillsborough Drive in the Castlereagh area of east Belfast.

Despite an apparent initial recovery, the father-of-three died 11 days later.

Dissident grouping the New IRA claimed responsibility for carrying out the attack on the senior prison officer.

Robinson, from Aspen Walk in Dunmurry, west Belfast, knew Mr Ismay from their time volunteering together for St John Ambulance.

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Prison officer Adrian Ismay was murdered by the New IRA. Credit: Department of Justice

Prison officer Adrian Ismay was murdered by the New IRA. Credit: Department of Justice

Prison officer Adrian Ismay was murdered by the New IRA. Credit: Department of Justice

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He denied any involvement in the bombing, but at a non-jury trial in 2020 he was found guilty of murder and possessing explosives with intent to endanger life.

A circumstantial case against him involved CCTV footage of a Citroen C3 car - registered in the name of a relative - used to transport the device.

Robinson's DNA was found on the edge of a poppy appeal sticker recovered from a rubbish bin at the vehicle owner's home.

The Remembrance Day emblem was said to have been put on the windscreen of the C3 in a cynical ploy to ensure the car would not appear out of place in east Belfast.

Following a previous failed challenge to his murder conviction, Robinson’s legal team returned to the Court of Appeal today in a bid to secure a reduced prison tariff.

Senior judges were told his life has been blighted by depression, alcoholism, post-traumatic stress disorder, hallucinations and repeated suicide attempts.

Based on a psychiatrist’s assessment of his client, Mr Harvey argued: “It’s not just simply that this man was vulnerable to the exploitation of others.

“The exploitation of others was possible because his whole life was fractured as a human being.”

Robinson coped with those issues by locking himself in his house and withdrawing from reality, the court heard.

Counsel acknowledged that Mr Ismay’s death, following an initial discharge from hospital, was “shattering” for the victim’s family.

However, it was contended that Robinson had not fully appreciated the consequences of his actions “because he could be manipulated and used by others”.

The court also heard he has tried to help others through involvement with St John Ambulance, mountain rescue services and volunteering at the 2012 London Olympics.

“Whatever one thinks of this man, one of his characteristics was that he managed to cope with life by trying to preserve life,” Mr Harvey submitted.

Stressing that Robinson will remain subject to life imprisonment, the barrister pointed out that the tariff only relates to when he may be considered for possible release.

“The trial judge ought to have considered that there were personal circumstances which would have entitled him to have reduced the sentence,” he added.

David McDowell, prosecuting, countered that Robinson was held to have been integrally involved in the targeting, planning and carrying out of a terrorist operation which resulted in the prison officer’s death.

“Were it not for him, Mr Ismay would not have been chosen,” he said.

“It is important to bear in mind the role he played, not only in the overall offending but in the choice of victim.”

According to Mr McDowell the case was so serious that any mitigation based on mental disorder does not reduce culpability.

“A sentence of 22 years was not manifestly excessive,” he submitted.

Reserving judgment in the appeal, Lady Chief Justice Dame Siobhan Keegan pledged: “We will give a ruling as soon as we can.”


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