TWO men convicted of the murder of Banbridge policeman Stephen Carroll were yesterday also handed suspended sentences for wrecking their cells at Maghaberry Prison.
John Paul Wootton and Brendan McConville, who were given 14-year and 25-year sentences respectively earlier this year for their parts in the 2009 murder of Constable Carroll in Craigavon, were said to appear in the dock with long beards as part of their protest against forced strip-searching.
The two men were convicted and given 20-month suspended sentences alongside nine other republicans including prominent Lurgan dissident Colin Duffy.
A defence lawyer for the eleven men read a statement on their behalf.
It claimed agreement had been reached in August 2010 with the prison Service to end routine use of forced strip-searching and they said this was breached the next month.
The lawyer said, “By May 6, 2011, less than nine months later, all legal and political efforts to bring about the end to this policy had been exhausted,” the statement added.
“The republican prisoners believed they were left with no alternative but to resume their protest.”
It was claimed their action was necessary to prevent continuing “inhumane and degrading treatment”.
Both Wootton and McConville are appealing their murder convictions. Constable Stephen Carroll was shot in the head while sitting in the passenger seat of an unmarked car in March 2009.