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'It is disgusting' - Widow of murdered policeman condemns killers' jail terms

Kate Carroll said that justice had not been done for her husband Stephen Carroll, who was shot dead in Armagh over three years ago.

Kate Carroll in March of this year.
Kate Carroll in March of this year.
Image: Paul Faith/PA Wire/Press Association Images

THE WIDOW OF the first Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officer to be killed since the Good Friday agreement has condemned the length of the prison sentences handed down to his killers today.

Kate Carroll said that the minimum prison terms for the two men from the Continuity IRA who killed her husband Stephen Carroll in March 2009 were too short to deter more attacks by other IRA factions.

Lord Justice Paul Girvan imposed minimum prison terms on Brendan McConville, who must spend a further 22 years in prison, and John Wootton 11 years, before either could apply for parole.

Both have been behind bars since 2009. Carroll, 48, was the first officer to be killed in Northern Ireland since 1998, the year that the Good Friday Agreement was brokered and saw the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) replaced by the PSNI.

McConville, 41, and Wootton, 21, originally received life sentences when they were convicted in February at Belfast Crown Court, but the Northern Ireland legal system allows judges to specify minimum terms before parole bids can be considered. They usually are approved.

“Justice has been done? Not for us, it has not,” Ms Carroll said as she called on judges in the North to impose the same level of punishment as elsewhere in the UK. “You cannot make exceptions in one country. It is disgusting.”

She called the prospect that Wootton might be free by 2023, when he’s 32, as far too weak a punishment to deter republicans from attacking police. McConville, a former politician in Sinn Féin, could be free in 2034 at age 63.

Carroll said Wootton’s lesser punishment “gives the message out that it is fine to kill a policeman here because you get a rap on the knuckles.”

The court found that the two men lured police into the ambush by vandalising a family’s house in Craigavon in Co Armagh and triggering an emergency call for help.

Carroll provided armed back-up to the responding officers and was sitting alone in his unmarked patrol car, when he was shot once through the back of the head.

The judge said McConville and Wootten, who declined to answer questions in police custody or during their trial, had demonstrated “no remorse for what they did.”

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said in a statement: “Police will take time to study the sentencing comments and the custodial terms imposed.”

- with reporting from AP

Read: Two found guilty of killing Northern Ireland policeman

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Hugh O'Connell

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