Terror sentence appeal plan

General view of a loyalist mural on the Lower Newtownards Road in east Belfast. '''''Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
General view of a loyalist mural on the Lower Newtownards Road in east Belfast. '''''Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

People convicted of terror, organised crime and paramilitary linked crimes could soon see their sentences increased under new proposals from the Department of Justice.

The department is proposing an extension to the ‘Unduly Lenient Sentence’ scheme to include over 80 types of crimes that weren’t covered before.

Under the scheme, the director of public prosecutions can refer a sentence passed in the Crown Court to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration, if he believes it to have been unduly lenient.

In February 2016, the then justice minister David Ford announced sentences relating to indecent images of children, modern slavery and serious assault were being added to the unduly lenient sentencing scheme.

The new proposed extension stems from an agreement struck between the DUP and Sinn Féin back in 2015, known as the ‘Fresh Start Agreement’.

Included in the agreement was a pledge to tackle paramilitary activity and associated criminality. An independent three-person panel, known as the ‘Fresh Start Panel’ was set up and, in a report published in June the following year, a series of recommendations were put forward.

One of these was for an “appropriate mechanism” that would allow the director of public prosecutions to “refer sentences he believes to be unduly lenient, particularly to include offences linked to terrorism and organised crime groups.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said: “The proposals were developed in response to a recommendation in the Fresh Start Panel Report on the Disbandment of Paramilitary Groups, and a commitment to consult was included in the Action Plan agreed by the Executive to implement the recommendations.

“The Department is seeking views on the proposals, in particular whether the offences listed in the paper properly reflect the type of criminality inflicted on communities by organised crime and paramilitary linked groups.”

The consultation is open until 5pm on October 2 and is available on the department’s website (justice-ni.gov.uk), or by ordering a print copy via 906 9584, or CPD.Public@justice-ni.x.gsi.gov.uk