Welcome increase to terrorist jail term but Stormont still needs to bring in tougher sentencing

News Letter editorial on Saturday January 16 2021:

By Editorial
Saturday, 16th January 2021, 9:00 am
News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

For years this newspaper has exposed soft sentences and a chaotic bail policy in serious terrorist cases in Northern Ireland.

We also highlighted the alarmingly low conviction rates for murders, particularly in the spate of dissident republicans killings from 2009.

There has in recent months been a welcome conviction, that of Christopher Robinson for murdering Adrian Ismay. He will serve a minimum of 22 years in jail, which is far too little but an improvement on traditional minimum tariffs in ‘life’ terms, which were once 15 years or below.

Yesterday, there was a further victory for justice when Christine Connor lost her appeal against conviction for attempted murder of a PSNI officer. Her minimum term rises from 20 years to 25. Connor, 35, would have been free at 55, perhaps to live decades after that, yet she was among a group of people who thought they had the authority to terminate some else’s life. Now she will not be free before 60.

These sentences are still generous: pre meditated murderers or would-be murderers are lucky ever to enjoy freedom again. But the terms are moves in the right direction.

It is welcome that the NI Appeal court described the attempted murder of security forces is a “heinous crime”.

There is more to be done on sentencing and bail policy in Northern Ireland, as shown by recent lenient terms of no more than five years for dissident terror plotters, but it is up to Stormont politicians to beef up minimum terms.

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