Northern Ireland news

Co Tyrone man Paul Campbell (41) jailed over 1997 bomb attack on Coalisland RUC station

Paul Campbell (41) was found guilty of causing an explosion likely to endanger life

A Co Tyrone man has been jailed over a bomb attack on an RUC station more than two decades ago.

Paul Campbell (41), of The Mills, Coalisland, was found guilty last month of causing an explosion likely to endanger life and possessing an improvised explosive device with intent to endanger life on March 26 1997.

Campbell, who was 18 at the time, had denied both offences at his non-jury 'Diplock' trial.

The prosecution said he was one of two men who launched the attack on Coalisland RUC station, was shot by ' undercover military operative 'Soldier A' as he fled the scene, and that he jumped into a priest's car parked nearby and fled across the border.

A senior prosecution lawyer said blood and DNA samples recovered after the attack matched those of Campbell.

A co-accused, Gareth Doris, who was also shot in the aftermath and was arrested at the scene, was later convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Campbell was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years.

During oral submissions at Belfast Crown Court, the prosecutor said the fact that he might be considered for early release under the Good Friday Agreement "was not a matter for this court but for the Parole Commissioners''.

He argued Campbell should receive a higher sentence than Doris, with aggravating factors including the fact he fled the jurisdiction and wasn't arrested and charged until 2015, when was detained by the PSNI after getting off a train in Portadown.

He said a further feature was that the intended victims of the bomb attack were police officers inside the heavily fortified RUC base.

But defence counsel Orlando Pownall QC branded as "laughable and risible'' a prosecution submission that there was "little by way of mitigation''.

"He was convicted of events which took place in March 1997 when he was 18 years of age and he is now a grown man with four young children and a wife," he said.

"We submit that the passage of time of 23 years must afford him significant mitigation.''

Mr Pownall also said he had "not committed any significant offence'' since 1997.

Judge David McFarland said it was likely that Doris "was in possession of the device which contained between half and three quarters of a kilo of military grade explosives and you (Campbell) provided support for him''.

The senior judge added: "I consider the aggravating feature is that this was a terrorist incident.''

In mitigation, the judge said he was taking into account Campbell's age and lack of criminal record at the time "and your naivety to get involved in this terrorist incident".

Taking his starting point for sentence as 10 years, the Belfast Recorder said he was reducing that by two-and-a-half years because of the delay in the case and "the impact this sentence will have on your children''.

He also made Campbell the subject of counter-terrorist provisions for the next 15 years.

Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell later said the sentencing was the result of a "long and complex investigation".

"It should send a clear message to those involved in violence - we will vigorously pursue those responsible to bring them before the courts to face the consequences of their actions."

How the Irish News reported the IRA attack and SAS response in March 1997

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