June 18 2012

Stiffer sentences for the two killers of a police officer are being sought by the Northern Ireland director of public prosecutions.

Barra McGrory QC confirmed he had sought leave to refer the jail terms to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that they were “unduly lenient”.

The widow of Constable Stephen Carroll, 48, had earlier complained that the two dissident republicans convicted of her husband’s murder should have received longer sentences.

Brendan McConville, 41, must serve a minimum 25 years and John Paul Wootton, 21, 14 years for their part in the murder of Constable Carroll, who was shot in the back of the head by a gunman who fired through the window of his unmarked police car in Craigavon, Co Armagh in March 2009.

After they were jailed by Lord Justice Paul Girvan at Belfast Crown Court, Kate Carroll attacked the difference in sentencing between Northern Ireland and England where a police officer’s killer can receive 30 years.

She said: “It gives the message out that it is fine to kill a policeman here because you can get a rap on the knuckles. Justice has been done? Not for us it has not. Stephen is still in his grave.”

Mrs Carroll added: “It should be the same everywhere. You cannot make exceptions in one country. It is disgusting.”

Later the judge issued a statement saying the sentence he handed down to Wootton was within the existing guidelines, but he would support any move to reconsider them because of the need for a greater deterrent in such crimes.

Mr McGrory had already referred Wootton’s sentence to the Court of Appeal, but said that he had sought leave to refer both sentences on the ground they were “unduly lenient.”