Belfast Telegraph

Dissident Connor's bid to overturn police murder attempt conviction to be heard in February

By Alan Erwin

A so-called lone-wolf dissident republican's bid to overturn her conviction for trying to murder police officers will be heard in February, senior judges directed on Friday.

Christine Connor has now been given a week to confirm if she will waive her right to privilege so her former legal team can respond to claims she only pleaded guilty on advice.

The 31-year-old is appealing her conviction for a terrorist plot said to have involved posing online as a Swedish model to lure men into supporting her attempt to kill.

Connor, from north Belfast, is also challenging the 16-year jail sentence handed down in June.

She intends to argue that the guilty verdict should be quashed because her plea was equivocal and should never have been accepted.

According to her new legal representatives she repeatedly stated at trial: "I am not guilty, but on advice I will plead guilty."

It emerged today that she may be called to give evidence when her challenge gets underway.

Under the rules of legal professional privilege any discussions between a defendant and their lawyers must remain confidential.

But judges sitting in the Court of Appeal pressed for Connor to state if she is prepared to waive that right due to the nature of her allegations.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said: "We need clarity on this by close of business next Friday."

Any refusal could result in an adverse inference being drawn, the court heard.

Connor's current barrister, Conor O'Kane, said she has "no issue with her previous lawyers answering criticisms".

Ciaran Murphy QC, prosecuting, outlined the difficulties created by the current uncertainty.

"At present we are totally hamstrung in terms of dealing with the allegations made against her previous team without access to their response," he said.

Listing the appeal for a one-day hearing in February, Sir Declan also ordered a further review hearing to consider any rebuttal evidence from the relevant lawyers.

Described as a staunch republican who claimed to be "at war" with the PSNI, Connor had pleaded guilty to a number of terrorist offences.

Charges against her involved home-made bomb attacks on police patrols lured to the city's Crumlin Road in May 2013.

Her trial heard how she placed a hoax 999 call and claimed a woman living in the area was in danger.

Although the grenades detonated in the first attack no-one was injured.

Twelve days later one policeman was injured when more bombs were thrown.

Detectives built a case against her based on DNA on gloves found close to the scene and CCTV footage.

They also found a mobile phone, SIM cards and a laptop computer stuffed inside the mattress of a bed at her home.

According to police Connor was not aligned to any dissident republican organisations and acted alone.

They also said she had exploited two men to further her aims - both of whom later took their own lives.

Her efforts to dupe them included using online photographs of a Swedish model and creating a fake social media profile, detectives said.

Connor was also jailed for possessing explosives with intent to endanger life and preparation of terrorist acts.

As well as seeking to overturn her conviction for attempted murder, her legal team will argue that the prison terms handed down were manifestly excessive.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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