Belfast Telegraph

Sentence for pair who planted bomb for Derry PSNI recruitment event 'lenient,' says MP

Men given 10 year sentence with five years in jail

By Jonathan Bell

Jail terms for two men who planted a bomb at a Northern Ireland hotel targeting a PSNI recruitment event have been described as "lenient"

A viable device, made from a fire extinguisher and filled with 1.5kg of explosives, was discovered in the grounds of the Waterfoot Hotel in Derry before the event on October 9, 2015.

Darren Poleon, 43, and Brian Walsh, 35, both from Co Meath in the Republic of Ireland, were handed a 10-year sentence with five years to be spent in jail for admitting to possession of explosives with the intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property and possession of articles for use in terorism.

They were also handed a four year imprisonment for possession of articles for use in terrorism. That will run alongside their other sentence.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell said a much tougher sentence should have been handed out.

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.

He said: “Many people will question why two dissident republican terrorists will only serve five years in prison for planting a bomb that was intended to murder and maim.

"The last year has seen an increased threat particularly in the North West and the police are to be congratulated for the work they are doing in apprehending terrorist suspects. However, given the threat posed it is particularly disappointing that such a lenient sentence has been imposed when a much tougher sentence was applicable and could have been handed out."

The fire-extinguisher explosive device had been placed in the car park of the Derry hotel on Tuesday October 6, and along with the detonating system, was not discovered until October 9.

Poleon and Walsh were initially arrested on Tuesday October 6 by police in the Drumragh Avenue area of Omagh after the car they were in was seen driving eratically. When searching the car police discovered bolt cutters, walkie-talkies, a toy gun, balaclavas, gloves and two mobile phones. A Sat-Nav system was also taken from the car for analysis.

The men were arrested on suspicion of being equipped for a burglary, and possessing an imitation firearm with the intent to cause fear of violence. They were later released on police bail. Under their bail conditions they returned to the police station by which time police had connected them to the attempted bomb attack using the information from the sat nav.

The two men were arrested under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act on December 2, 2015 and were charged on the same day. Both changed initial pleads of not guilty to guilty.

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

"They had no regard for the safety of anyone staying in or visiting this popular hotel. I’m thankful we were able to thwart their efforts as I have no doubt that if the device had exploded people would have been killed or at the very least seriously injured."

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