McLaughlin’s previous light jail term: Prosecutors say they had no grounds to appeal it

Generic image of hollow-point bullets  a style McLaughlin had
Generic image of hollow-point bullets  a style McLaughlin had

The News Letter can reveal the PPS did not appeal Damien McLaughlin’s lenient 2011 sentence.

It told the paper simply that “the sentence was not referable as a matter of law”.

(Click here for the main story on McLauhglin’s light sentence)

Anyone can ask for a sentence to be appealed if it is thought to be lenient, but it is commonly done by the PPS.

Certain criteria must be met before referring sentences to the Court of Appeal.

Firstly, only certain types of offences (including “more serious offences that can be dealt with only in the Crown Court”) are eligible.

Secondly, a sentence for an offence must not just be lenient, but “unduly lenient”.

It is not clear which of these two aspects, or both, the PPS had in mind when it decided that there were no grounds on which to refer McLaughlin’s sentence.

The PPS was also asked why all of McLaughlin’s firearms and bullets were dealt with by way of a single charge, rather than each one attracting a different charge (as the sniper scopes did).

It said: “It is normal practice to include multiple firearms within a single charge when they are recovered as part of a single find.

“The reason that separate charges were directed in relation to the other items is that those items were not ‘firearms’ as defined by the Firearms (Northern Ireland) Order 2004. They therefore had to be charged separately as terrorist articles under the Terrorism Act 2000.”

The News Letter has also asked the Office of the Lord Chief Justice – the head of Northern Ireland’s judiciary – if it could explain the apparently light sentence handed down in 2011.

It said: “This office does not comment on a sentence imposed by a judge in an individual case.

“The rule of law requires that each judge must be able to deal with a case or reach his decisions without influence about how the case should be dealt with or what decision he should come to.”

The DoJ is currently running a review of sentencing policy, but it does not explicitly address terror offences.

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