It is hard enough for the police to gather the evidence required to mount a prosecution in terrorist cases. It requires a great deal of diligence and bravery to secure a conviction.
One can therefore only imagine what the police officers involved will make of the decision by a judge earlier this week to allow a man who bought a mobile phone and top-up vouchers linked to the discovery of a remote controlled bomb to walk free from court with a suspended sentence.
I have no doubt that the public simply will not understand such a lenient sentence for such a serious crime. It is neither punishment not deterrent and is literally an insult to victims.
The fact that on the same day in a Belfast courtroom a man and woman were quite rightly jailed for separate assaults and aggressive behaviour towards staff in the Royal Victoria Hospital merely serves to highlight the incredible leniency shown in the terror case. If we as a society are serious about defeating the threat posed by terrorists and criminal gangs then we all need to be on the same page. That means the public supporting the police with information, the police conducting professional investigations, prosecutors doing their job in courtrooms and judges handing down sentences that both punish and deter.
The chain is only as strong as its weakest link. In this case, where violent terrorism was the aim, a custodial sentence was a basic requirement.
ROSS HUSSEY (UUP)
MLA for West Tyrone