Sending Old Bailey bomber Marian McGlinchey back to prison for offences linked to dissident republican terrorism would exacerbate a serious mental illness and inevitably lead to her being hospitalised, a court has been told.
A lawyer for 59-year-old McGlinchey, formerly known as Marian Price, also highlighted chronic physical health problems affecting his client as he urged a judge to spare her another jail term.
McGlinchey, who was given a life term in 1973 for her part in the bomb attack on the London court, pleaded guilty last month to providing a mobile phone to the Real IRA gang that murdered two soldiers outside Massereene Army barracks in Antrim in 2009 and, two years later, aiding and abetting a masked man who read out a Real IRA statement advocating violence against police officers.
In the wake of the incident in 2011, when she held a speech for the man at a republican rally in a Londonderry cemetery, then Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson revoked her life sentence release licence, which had been imposed when she was freed after serving seven years for the Old Bailey attack.
She was re-released by Parole Commissioners earlier this year on health grounds. In the latter part of that two-year stint in custody she was held in a hospital mental health unit setting.
Frank O’Donaghoe QC, representing McGlinchey, from Stockmans Avenue in west Belfast, made a plea for mitigation to judge Gordon Kerr QC at a pre-sentence hearing in Belfast Crown Court.
“Justice can be served by imposing a lengthy suspended sentence,” he said.
“Which would reinforce the message, if it has not been already received, that the defendant’s conduct will always be subject to close scrutiny and if she steps out of line in any way her immediate return to a custodial environment would be inevitable.”
While prosecution lawyer Terence Mooney QC acknowledged McGlinchey did not present a danger to the public, he stressed said she had pleaded guilty to two terrorist offences.
“The role of this defendant on each of the counts appears to be consistent with that of a person who disseminates propaganda on behalf of, or in promotion of, dissident terrorist organisations,” he said.
Judge Kerr said he would take time to consider pleas before handing down his sentence next month.
Dressed in a burgundy jacket and wearing a pink scarf, McGlinchey, who walked into the dock with the aid of a stick, watched impassively throughout the hearing.
Mr O’Donaghoe acknowledged his client, who at the time of the cemetery incident was secretary of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, had passed the threshold over which a custodial sentence could be considered, but said there were valid reasons why she should not be returned to prison.
“She is chronically physically and, it seems, mentally ill,” he said.
Referring to defence reports compiled by medical professionals, he told the court she had suffered from TB in the past, which had left her with a range of serious health problems.
He said she had a respiratory condition, thyroid problems, anaemia and asthma.
The lawyer insisted the treatment programme required to manage these physical illnesses “could not easily be replicated within a custodial setting”.
Turning to psychiatric problems, he claimed she had suffered serious mental illness every time she had been incarcerated. He said her condition was currently being managed with strong anti-depressants and mood stabilisers but, quoting a psychiatric report, said if she was sent back to prison her condition would deteriorate and hospitalisation would be inevitable.
“It is a fairly clear, robust and unequivocal statement,” he said referring to the expert’s assessment.
Mr O’Donaghoe said her recent two years in custody was the equivalent of serving a four year sentence (taking account of 50% remission).
He also claimed her offence in relation to the Massereene shootings was “significantly removed” from those who actually committed the murders and that she should receive some credit for her decision to plead guilty on both counts, albeit not at the earliest opportunity.
English sappers Patrick Azimkar, 23, and Mark Quinsey, 21, were shot dead outside the gates of the military base in Antrim in March 2009.
The soldiers had emerged from the barracks to collect pizzas when two Real IRA gunmen opened fire. Two pizza delivery drivers and three other soldiers were injured in the attack.
McGlinchey was filmed buying a pay-as-you-go mobile phone that within a short period was used to claim responsibility for the outrage.
Judge Kerr released McGlinchey on continuing bail to return for sentencing on January 7.
In 1973 the republican was convicted along with her sister Dolours Price for their role in the car bomb attack earlier that year on the Old Bailey, which resulted in the death of one man from a heart attack and injured more than 200.
Dolours Price died in Dublin earlier this year.