Prosecutors have duty to appeal these woefully inadequate prison terms given to dangerous dissident republican terrorists

Jail terms given to seven terrorists yesterday were described in some reports as totalling 33 years.

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

This is misleading, because it gives the impression that the sentences were tough. They were, on the contrary, woefully inadequate.

The dissident thugs had admitted serious charges after a MI5 surveillance operation against the Continuity IRA in Newry six years ago. The men pleaded guilty to charges of belonging to a proscribed organisation, providing weapons and explosives training, conspiring to possess explosives and firearms with intent to endanger life.

They also admitted preparing acts of terrorism.

The judge said that discussions of two of the guilty men included plots to kill and made for “grim” reading. Yet the pair received five years in jail, despite being found to pose a danger to the public in the future because of their past terror convictions. They might serve more than five– might.

Some recordings revealed a plot to target a prison governor while out walking and a plot to target police officers.

Among the other sentences were two men who got 6.5 years, but only three of them to be spent in custody.

MI5 is to be congratulated on its excellent operation. Yet these potential murderers will be free to plot again in a handful of years. If actual murderers deserve 40 years behind bars, men such as these deserve 20. The Public Prosecution Service has a duty to appeal these lenient terms.

This outcome shows how important it is that Counter Terrorism and Sentencing Bill will apply to Northern Ireland. We hope that the assurances to Doug Beattie MLA, that it will apply here, are fulfilled.

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Alistair Bushe