The Public Prosecution Service has said it is considering appealing the sentence given to a man caught with guns and ammunition belonging to dissident republicans.
Edward Francis Corr from Dunmurry Corr was handed an 18-month sentence at Belfast Crown Court, and was told by Judge Paul Ramsey that he will serve half the sentence in prison, followed by nine months on licence.
The 39-year-old admitted a charge of possessing firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life and possession of a modified firearm.
TUV leader and barrister Jim Allister slammed the sentence as “farcical” and urged the PPS to refer the matter to the Court of Appeal on the grounds it is “unduly lenient”.
Following an inquiry from the News Letter, the Department of Justice has confirmed that – under Article 58 of the Firearms (NI) Order 2004 – the maximum sentence for possession of a firearm or ammunition with intention to endanger life is life imprisonment.
Meanwhile, the maximum sentence for possession of a modified firearm is 10 years or a fine or both, the department said.
Mr Allister said: “The judiciary need to reflect on the seriousness of the offences pleaded to in this case and to impose a sentence which reflects that, otherwise they are signalling to these people that all they will get is a slap on the wrist. There has to be some sort of deterrent.”
A PPS spokesperson told the News Letter that it is considering if there is a basis to refer the sentence to the Court of Appeal on the grounds of undue leniency.
The weapons were seized by police during a search of a shed at Corr’s Foxes Glen home on October 24, 2016.
Belfast Crown Court heard the haul included two semi-automatic pistols, two magazines and a quantity of ammunition as well as a Skorpion M48 submachine gun which was “designed or adapted that two or more missiles could be successively discharged without repeated pressure on the trigger’’.
At the time of the discovery, police linked the guns to dissident republican group Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH).
Father-of-three Corr claimed he was threatened at gunpoint to store a bag containing the guns. During police interview, Corr said he feared the consequences for his wife and three children if he didn’t keep the bag.
Speaking after Corr was sentenced on Wednesday, PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Griffin said the weapons were “clearly intended for use in terrorism and acts of violence and would undoubtedly have been used to kill or injure police officers or members of the public”.
In a statement to the News Letter, the Lord Chief Justice’s Office said sentencing is a matter for each individual judge after consideration of the specific circumstances of each case.
A spokesperson added: “In this case the judge took into consideration the defendant’s plea of guilty and the mitigating factors relating to the defendant’s mental health which the judge considered to bear heavily on his culpability.”