Belfast Telegraph

Prosecution's bid to increase Constable Stephen Carroll killer's jail term fails

By Alan Erwin

Northern Ireland's Director of Public Prosecutions has failed in a bid to have the prison term imposed on one of Constable Stephen Carroll's murderers increased to at least 30 years.

The Court of Appeal rejected Barra McGrory's claim that the minimum 25-year term imposed on Brendan McConville was unduly lenient.

Senior judges reserved their decision on a separate bid by the DPP to have co-defendant John Paul Wooton's tariff raised from 14 to 21 years for his role in the killing.

Both men are currently serving life sentences after being convicted of the Continuity IRA murder.

Last month both failed in attempts to have their murder convictions overturned.

In court yesterday the case switched to a prosecution challenge against the sentences handed down to the pair.

Mr McGrory argued that the way Constable Carroll was lured to his death represented a significant aggravating factor.

He told the court: "The murder itself and the way it was executed was an attack on the very heart of policing and the very heart of democracy which underpins this society."

The director further contended that the killing came at a time when the police service had gained cross-community support.

"In the circumstances of this case it should have been a tariff of 30 years or more," he submitted.

He suggested there were significant differences between the sentencing of police killers in England and practice directions used in Northern Ireland.

But during exchanges Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan stressed how the guidelines have operated for the last 10 years.

Sir Declan, sitting with Lord Justices Higgins and Coghlin, ruled against the application and said reasons would be given later.

Both convicted murderers listened by a prison video-link.

The victim's widow, Kate Carroll, was also present in court with family and friends.

Turning to Wootton, aged 17 at the time of the killing, Mr McGrory insisted his youth was the only mitigating factor.

However, counsel for Wootton countered that the absolute minimum sentence necessary for rehabilitation and public protection should be applied.

Sir Declan pledged to give a decision on the application against Wootton as soon as possible.

Story so far

Constable Carroll was the first PSNI member to be killed. He was ambushed and shot dead by the Continuity IRA as he responded to a 999 call at Lismore Manor, Craigavon, in March 2009. McConville (43), of Glenholme Avenue in the town, and Wootton (23), from Lurgan, were also convicted of possession of an AK47 assault rifle and ammunition with intent to endanger life. The younger man was further found guilty of attempting to collect information likely to be of use to terrorists. A circumstantial case against them at the non-jury trial involved DNA and other evidence.

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