Northern Ireland

Rioter wins appeal to have ‘massively excessive’ jail sentence reduced

The case against Lesley Stock has been listed for a preliminary inquiry at Belfast Magistrates Court in December
Diarmuid McKee (29) appealed his sentence of five years and three months

Judges at the Court of Appeal have reduced a prison sentence handed down a Co Armagh rioter saying it was “manifestly excessive.

Diarmuid McKee (29) appealed his sentence of five years and three months imposed by Judge Patricia Smyth at Belfast Crown Court last December.

McKee, from Deeny Drive in Lurgan, was one of several men arrested in the aftermath of the riot which broke out on August 23 2020.

Police were targeted after they arrived to deal with a suspicious device.

McKee pleaded guilty on the morning of his trial in October 2022 to offences of rioting and throwing a petrol bomb.

At the Court of Appeal on Thursday, defence counsel Kieran Mallon KC argued that Judge Smyth had been “too prescriptive’' in the way she followed the sentencing guidelines in cases of rioting and the sentence imposed was “manifestly excessive”.

He told Lord Justice Treacy, sitting with Lord Justice Horner and Mr Justice O’Hara, that only four petrol bombs were thrown during the course of the riot which lasted 45 minutes.

Mr Mallon said no police officers were injured, no police vehicles were damaged and no damage was caused to any property.

Giving the judgement of the court, Mr Justice O’Hara said: “As has been repeatedly said over decades in these courts, petrol bombing is, and remains, a serious offence.

“In our judgement, the recorder’s sentence in this case is manifestly excessive because of the particular circumstances of this case, a small but short-lived riot.

“The sentence of five years three months is reduced to four years six months.”