Northern Ireland news

PSNI sergeant Linda Totten freed from jail after winning sentence appeal

Policewoman Linda Totten was sentenced to six months

A police sergeant jailed for shoplifting is set to be freed after winning an appeal against her six-month sentence.

Senior judges cut 50-year-old Linda Totten's prison term to two months on the basis that the original period was manifestly excessive.

Due to time already spent behind bars for stealing from a Co Fermanagh supermarket, she is now expected to be released immediately.

Totten, with an address given as Enniskillen PSNI station, was found guilty of two counts of theft committed in December 2013.

She had targeted an Asda store in the town twice in the space of four days, taking a trolley-load of goods on both occasions.

Following her conviction on a retrial a judge identified a degree of sophistication, premeditation and brazenness about the offences.

In February he sentenced the serving officer of 27 years' standing to a total of six months in jail.

Her lawyers lodged an immediate challenge to the term handed down, arguing that it went against the relevant guidelines.

Defence counsel Richard Greene QC told the Court of Appeal that immediate imprisonment for a first-time offender should only be imposed as last resort, and even then kept much shorter. With his client facing separate police disciplinary proceedings, he also stressed her poor health. 

Sir Declan, sitting with two other appeal judges, identified two significant aggravating features: Totten's repeated shoplifting, and her role within the PSNI.

"The function of police officers is to protect this community from someone who engages in offending," he pointed out.

But despite accepting Totten acted "brazenly", the Lord Chief Justice acknowledged defence submissions that she had not been involved with criminals.

"One does have to keep one's feet somewhat on the ground," he added. 

Backing the decision to jail the policewoman, Sir Declan ruled: "We consider the three-month sentences imposed on this lady on each count were excessive."

Instead, the court substituted consecutive one-month terms for both offences. Based on 50% remission, Totten's lawyers confirmed she will now be eligible for immediate release. 

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