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Gavin Coyle pictured in 2011. Niall Carson

Court increases sentence for man jailed over role in Real IRA attempted murder of police officer

Gavin Coyle was originally sentenced to six years in prison for IRA membership and providing a car to be used by terrorists.

A MAN CONVICTED of offences in the North in connection with the attempted murder of a police officer has had his sentence increased by the Court of Appeal.

Gavin Coyle (46) from Omagh was originally sentenced to six years in prison for IRA membership and providing a car to be used by terrorists. The Court of Appeal has found this to be “unduly lenient” and has increased it to eight years.

The car was used in an operation to plant a bomb under the car of a serving police officer in May 2008. The Tyrone brigade of the Real IRA claimed responsibility for the attack.

The bomb exploded as the officer drove to work. The officer survived but was left with what has been described as permanent, disfiguring injuries.

Coyle was sentenced to six years in 2023 for his role in the murder plot, and was to serve two thirds before he would become eligible for release.

Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service last year appealed the sentence as unduly lenient, while Coyle appealed that it was manifestly excessive. The Court of Appeal considered both the reference and the appeal simultaneously.

In its judgement, it found that in Coyle’s appeal “the sentence reached by the trial judge of six years could not on any reading be said to be manifestly excessive for serious terrorist offending of this nature”.

“The only valid question was whether this was an unduly lenient sentence,” the court said.

“The threshold for a reference to succeed is high in that a sentence must not simply be lenient it must be unduly lenient.

“Applying the relevant principles and upon a careful analysis of the case, the court considered that the sentence in this case was unduly lenient for offending of this nature.

“It considered that if the starting point was 12 years with a reduction of two years for totality and delay, the sentence should have been in the region of 10 years before reduction for the guilty plea.

“An appropriate reduction for the plea was 20%. Therefore, the final sentence should have been one of eight years rather than six years’ imprisonment.

The court therefore substituted a custodial sentence of eight years for the sentence imposed by the trial judge. The sentence will be comprised of two thirds period in custody in accordance with the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Act 2021.

With reporting from Press Association 

Press Association