Ben Lowry: Once again I wonder if we all agree that terrorism is a serious offence

A scene in Londonderry in 2013 where police officers  intercepted a van thought to contain an explosive device.



Picture by Lorcan Doherty/Press Eye

A scene in Londonderry in 2013 where police officers intercepted a van thought to contain an explosive device. Picture by Lorcan Doherty/Press Eye

The exact reasons why the easing of bail terms was not opposed in the serious court case that we report today are unclear.

That the PPS and police did not for some reason oppose easing bail this time is almost incidental to the wider issue.

The News Letter has reported again and again on the scandal of bail policy in Northern Ireland.

There have been extraordinary examples of lenient bail decisions in gravely serious cases, of bail breaches going unnoticed or unpunished and of shockingly light sentences given to people found guilty of serious dissident crimes.

We are a small newspaper that is reporting on RHI, Stormont, deaths, fires and so on but are making room for the topic because some of parts of the media have little interest in it.

Dissident attacks in recent days underline why we think it so important.

Adam Kula’s outstanding reporting of the issue has exposed one astonishing development after another.

We have sought explanations from the courts, the department of justice and other organisations and asked what is happening in the bail review. In some cases we have merely asked if people in authority are concerned about the situation. In instances we have not even had replies.

So again I pose questions that I posed some months ago (see link below):

Are we all agreed that terrorism is a serious offence?

Are we all agreed that the authorities have a right to take meaningful action to save life?

Despite breaches of bail in cases where the very granting of it was surprising, and despite the scandalous saga in which a defendant’s abscond was not even noticed, there is still minimal outcry.

Stormont belatedly debated bail policy and backed a motion of concern but was split on the matter.

That, and the limited interest, suggests an answer to my query: we are not all agreed about the seriousness of terror.

Dissident leaders will have noticed this. So it is only fair that the people in the security forces whose lives are at greater risk from the leniency get extra security payments as a bonus and a recognition of the heightened peril in which they are operating.

It will cost the state a lot of money. But those of us who want the risks to be taken more seriously, to protect lives from the threat, must work to ensure that the rest of the UK, from Downing Street down, knows why we seek such funds – that it is another key matter on which we cannot get agreement in Northern Ireland.

We can barely get a discussion going as to why this leniency is happening.

• Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor

Prosecutors failed to object to relaxing bail in terror case

Morning View: We must be told why NI courts treat bail so lightly in terror cases

Ben Lowry in January: Bail scandal indifference suggests we are not all agreed that dissident terror is a serious matter

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