Northern Ireland news

Prosecutors consider appealing hotel bomb sentences - but solicitor claims criticism 'uninformed'

Darren Poleon (43) at an earlier court hearing in Derry. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Michael McHugh, Press Association

PROSECUTORS are considering appealing sentences handed to two dissident republican bombers because they "may be unduly lenient".

Co Meath men Darren Poleon (43) and Brian Walsh (35) were each given five-year jail terms - with another five years to be served on licence - at Belfast Crown Court on Thursday.

They left a blast bomb in the grounds of the Waterfoot Hotel in Derry ahead of a PSNI recruitment event in October 2015.

Unionist politicians, including the DUP's Gregory Campbell and UUP's Doug Beattie, have claimed the punishment was too light.

A Public Prosecution Service statement said: "The PPS is considering if there is a basis to refer the sentences handed down in this case to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that they may be unduly lenient".

Poleon, from Drumbaragh, Kells, and Walsh, of Culmullen, Dunshaughlin, pleaded guilty to possession of explosives with intent to endanger life and possession of articles for use in terrorism.

The bomb was made from a fire extinguisher filled with 1.5 kilogrammes of explosives, and was found along with a detonating system.

A judge took into account their guilty pleas and the fact they returned from the Republic to answer bail.

Ciaran Shiels, a solicitor for the men, claimed uninformed public statements had been made about the case.

"The public should understand that the case was put forward by the PPS as an attempt by dissident republicans to disrupt the planned PSNI recruitment event at the Waterfoot hotel, not any attempt at mass murder," he said.

"Specifically, the court found that neither defendant poses a risk of serious harm to the public.

"Further, that the device itself was a small one made from low explosive firework composition and that both defendants had honoured the terms of their release to return to this jurisdiction to be questioned and charged in respect of the incident."

He added that police had not complained about the sentences and said any referral to the Court of Appeal would be "vigorously defended".

"The sentences handed down by the court falls squarely within the correct range of sentences for incidents of this type within the law," he said.

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