Belfast Telegraph

PPS considers appealing sentences of pair who planted bomb for PSNI recruitment event

By Jonathan Bell

The Public Prosecution Service is considering appealing the sentences given to two men who planted a bomb at a hotel targeting a PSNI recruitment event.

Brian Walsh and Darren Poleon, both from Co Meath, were both handed a 10-year sentence yesterday - half of which will be spent in jail.

They left a device around 20 metres from the lobby of the Waterfoot Hotel in Londonderry ahead of a PSNI recruitment event in October 2015.

Yesterday, a judge said that while the remote-controlled device was located and made safe before the event, it nonetheless had the potential to cause "severe physical injury or death ... to members of the PSNI and others attending the hotel".

At Belfast Crown Court yesterday, both Poleon (43), from Lightown in Kells, and 35-year-old Brian Walsh, from Drumree in Dunshaughlin, were given a 10-year sentence for terrorist offences.

They were told by Judge Geoffery Miller QC they will spend five years in jail, with the remainder on licence upon their release.

Afterwards, Detective Chief Inspector Gillian Kearney from PSNI's Serious Crime Branch said the pair's intention "was undoubtedly to murder and seriously injure as well as to deter people from pursuing a career in policing."

The judge took into account a number of factors in determining the sentence including their guilty pleas, their cooperation and that the explosives used were low grade.

Judges are bound by sentencing guidelines and must take into account mitigating circumstances, such as early guilty pleas, co-operation with police and remorse, as well as aggravating factors, such as intent and excessive violence.

The jail terms have been described as "lenient" by DUP MP Gregory Campbell. The Police Federation, which represents the PSNI's rank and file also called into question the length of the sentences.

On Friday, the PPS said it would consider appealing the sentence.

A spokeswoman said: “The Public Prosecution Service is considering if there is a basis to refer the sentences handed down in this case to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that they may be unduly lenient.”

However, the solicitor representing both Poleon and Walsh,  Ciaran Shiels, described the reaction as "hysterical".

“The sentences handed down by the court falls squarely within the correct range of sentences for incidents of this type within the law," he said.

“The public should understand that the case was put forward by the PPS as an attempt by dissident republicans to disrupt the planned PSNI recruitment event at the Waterfoot hotel, not any attempt at mass murder.

“Specifically, the court found that neither defendant poses a risk of serious harm to the public.

“Any referral by the PPS to the Court of Appeal on foot of hysterical comments by the Police Federation or local politicians will be vigorously defended.”

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