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Co Tyrone man Paul Campbell jailed for 1997 bomb attack on RUC station


Paul Campbell at an earlier court appearance

Paul Campbell at an earlier court appearance

Photopress Belfast

Paul Campbell at an earlier court appearance

A Co Tyrone man has been jailed for seven-and-a-half years over a bomb attack on an RUC station more than two decades ago.

Paul Campbell (41), of The Mills, Coalisland, was found guilty last month of causing an explosion likely to endanger life, and possessing an improvised explosive device with intent to endanger life, on March 26, 1997.

Campbell, who was 18 at the time of the attack, had denied both offences at his non-jury Diplock style which was heard by Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland.

Police welcomed the sentencing following their "long and complex" investigation.

Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell said: "It should send a clear message to those involved in violence - we will vigorously pursue those responsible to bring them before the courts to face the consequences of their actions.

“We will continue to combat the threat posed by those who plan to use violence to further their agendas. We remain committed to making Northern Ireland safer for everyone.”

It was the prosecution case that Campbell was one of two men who launched the attack, that he was shot by an undercover military operative known as 'Soldier A' as he fled from the scene, and that he jumped into a priest's car that was parked nearby and fled the jurisdiction to the Republic.

Gareth Doris, who was also shot in the aftermath of the bomb attack and arrested at the scene, was later convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

A senior prosecution lawyer said blood and DNA samples recovered from the scene matched that of Campbell.

During oral submissions at a sentencing hearing at Belfast Crown Court on Wednesday, the senior prosecutor said that the fact that the defendant might be considered for early release under the Belfast Agreement "was not a matter for this court, but for the Parole Commissioners''.

He said Campbell should receive a higher sentence than Doris received as he (Doris) was "caught red handed'' at the scene.


The scene of the bomb attack on Coalisland police station in 1997

The scene of the bomb attack on Coalisland police station in 1997

The scene of the bomb attack on Coalisland police station in 1997

The prosecutor said the aggravating factors were that the charges were terrorist-related and the fact that Campbell fled the jurisdiction and wasn't actually arrested and charged until 2015 when was detained by the PSNI after getting off a train in Portadown.

A further aggravating factor was that the intended victims of the bomb attack were police officers inside the heavily-fortified RUC base.

He added: "There is little by way of mitigation as this was terrorist-related.''

But defence counsel Orlando Pownall QC branded this as "laughable and risable''.

He told the court: "This incident took place 23 years ago. We are not inviting the court to do Mr Campbell any favours. I am not on his behalf on bended knee seeking charity.

"What we do seek is an acknowledgement of the fact that he was convicted of events which took place in March 1997 when he was 18 years of age and he is now a grown man with four young children and a wife.

"We submit that the passage of time of 23 years must afford him significant mitigation.''

Mr Pownall urged the court to take into account the "significant delay'' in bringing the case to court.

The defence QC said that the approach of sentencing in such cases by the courts was "to identify the need for punishment, retribution and deterrence'', but he added that retribution and deterrence in this case after 23 years had a "hollow ring'', as since 1997, "Mr Campbell has not committed any significant offence''.

Mr Pownall further submitted that it was "ridiculous and unjust '' for the prosecution to assert that Campbell should receive a higher sentence than Doris.

Passing sentence, Judge McFarland said it was likely that Doris "was in possession of the device which contained between half and three quarters of a kilo of military grade explosives and you (Campbell) provided support for him.''

The Belfast Recorder said while Doris was shot and detained at the scene, Campbell was also shot but left the jurisdiction to the Republic of Ireland and was treated for his injuries.

Judge McFarland added: "I consider the aggravating feature is that this was a terrorist incident.''

In mitigation, the judge said he was taken into account Campbell's age at the time "and your naivety to get involved in this terrorist incident'', his lack of criminal record at the time of the bombing, and that he had since "established a family life and the impact that will have on your two sons and your two daughters and also your wife''.

Taking his starting point for sentence as 10 years, Judge McFarland said he was reducing that by two and a half years because of the delay in the case and also "the impact this sentence will have on your children''.

The Belfast Recorder also made Campbell the subject of counter terrorist provisions for the next 15 years.

Belfast Telegraph

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