Yet another lenient prison term for a serious terror crime

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

While the DUP MP Gregory Campbell is very much to be applauded for his criticism of the sentences given to two dissident would-be murderers yesterday, he has if anything understated the position.

Mr Campbell said that it was “highly unlikely” that two people who planted a bomb at a hotel where a public event was due to take place in Great Britain would get a sentence as feeble as the dissidents did yesterday in Northern Ireland.

It is almost certain that Islamic terrorists who tried, for example, to murder soldiers in mainland UK would get considerably more than the five years in jail handed to Brian Walsh and Darren Poleon, both of Co Meath, by Belfast Crown Court yesterday. Twenty years behind bars would not be harsh.

This is the latest disturbingly lenient sentence handed down by a Northern Ireland court for grave terrorist offences.

In the rest of the UK, or indeed in any other country in the western world, there would be outrage at such a weak sentence.

In Northern Ireland, we seem to expect no different.

The two men in this case left a bomb in shrubbery behind a sign, 20 metres from the lobby of the hotel.

If they had killed police or possible police recruits (who tend to be young) there would have been uproar.

If they had killed passers by, there would have been even more so, from politicians across these islands.

But what is the point in the uproar if nothing changes?

The responsibility here ultimately lies with politicians, who can establish minimum terms.

Tackling sentences must become a priority of a direct rule government in London.

Reforming Northern Ireland’s lenient bail policy, in which the most serious defendants are given bail, is also necessary.

The News Letter has been monitoring bail policy and sentencing policy for more than a year, and it is clear that both must be significantly tightened.