Belfast Telegraph

PPS may appeal prison sentences of dissident bombers due to 'leniency'

By Donna Deeney

Two dissident republican terrorists convicted of attempting to bomb a PSNI recruitment event in Londonderry could have their sentences increased.

Darren Poleon (43), from Lightown in Kells, and Brian Walsh (35), from Drumree in Dunshaughlin, were each sentenced to serve five years in jail and five years on licence by Judge Geoffery Miller at Belfast Crown Court on Thursday.

However, the Public Prosecution Service is now deciding whether or not there is any merit in challenging the sentences.

A spokesman for the PPS said: "We are 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."

While 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 sentences have been heavily criticised.

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie described them as "pathetic" and "an insult to the victims of terrorism".

He claimed the rules that govern the judiciary in Northern Ireland were unacceptably softer than those elsewhere in the UK.

"All too often our courts hand out weak sentences that suggest a toleration of a certain level of violence as inevitable and even normal," he said.

"Former Royal Marine Ciaran Maxwell received an 18-year sentence, plus five more on licence, for a variety of terrorist offences from the Old Bailey in London.

"How he must wish he had been sentenced in a Northern Ireland court."

However, solicitor Ciaran Shiels of Madden & Finucane, who represented both Poleon and Walsh, 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 comments by the Police Federation or local politicians will be vigorously defended."

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