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Life term for killing police should mean life: Spence

The head of the Police Federation has demanded “whole life” terms for those who kill police officers.

Chairman Terry Spence said the killers of Constable Stephen Carroll “got off too lightly”, with such sentences sending out a wrong message.

He called the terms — a minimum of 14 years for John Paul Wootton (21) and at least 25 years for Brendan McConville (41) — “inexplicable”.

Speaking yesterday at the Federation’s annual conference, Mr Spence said that “the full outrage of the people of Northern Ireland must be reflected in future sentences”.

He added: “Last week the judiciary in Birmingham were in no doubt of their duty or the public mood when they handed out sentences of up to 30 years for the attempted murder of officers by armed rioters.

“Here in Northern Ireland, conviction for murder under the age of 21 brought only 14 years. We demand life should mean a whole life sentence, no matter what age.”

His comments come after John Paul Wootton’s case was referred to the Court of Appeal on grounds that his term was unduly lenient.

Justice Minister David Ford announced he would re-examine guidelines after the case had been heard.

Mr Spence said more police should be recruited to deal with the severe threat from terrorism.

Around 5,500 officers have retired since 1998 and more than 1,000 are to leave within four years, he added.

“But now that it looks clear the current severe threat of terrorism and the potential public order volatility will endure, then a more realistic and honest answer would be to start recruiting again. It is unacceptable that we should have to wait until further atrocity to make the case to the Executive for more officers.”

Mr Ford recalled how in March Chief Constable Matt Baggott said he was satisfied with the PSNI's operational capability within its 2010 budget allocation. An extra £245m funding was secured to deal with security issues.

Mr Ford added: “The Chief Constable has also assured me he will keep numbers under review.”


“How this [the murder of a PSNI officer] fails to attract the most severe life sentence possible is |inexplicable. Inexplicable, that is, unless you believe that claiming a political motive somehow reduces the gravity of the murder.”

Police Federation chairman Terry Spence

Belfast Telegraph