THOSE who murder get off too lightly - that was the message from an Upper Bann MLA during the Assembly debate on sentencing legislation in Northern Ireland.
Sydney Anderson spoke in support of the motion looking at the way sentences are imposed here, compared to England where the minimum term for killing a police officer is 30 years.
Following the debate the Justice Minister announced there would be a review of the current sentencing legislation on murder, including the murder of police officers.
The DUP member said, “This motion was brought because of the deep feelings of outrage felt right across the community at the 14-year sentence handed down to one of those convicted of killing Constable Stephen Carroll.
“Constable Carroll was a dedicated police officer and a family man, who was shot dead by terrorists in my constituency. I am glad that the Director of Public Prosecutions has referred the case to the Court of Appeal.
“Those who murder get off far too lightly. When we come to the murder of police officers, the crime somehow seems to be even worse. Police officers are the custodians of the rule of law, they put themselves on the front line against criminals to protect the whole community. That is why the murder of a police officer is greeted with such anger. Such a murder is a direct challenge to the rule of law.”
“Thankfully, the murder of police officers is no longer a frequent or regular occurrence in Northern Ireland. However, two PSNI officers - Constable Stephen Carroll and Constable Ronan Kerr - have been murdered by dissident republican groups.
“They were killed because they dared to want to serve the community. The community must unite as never before to demand tougher sentences for those who go out and murder police officers.”
“Kate Carroll, in stark contrast with those who murdered her husband, has been an example to us all. I had the sad task, as the then Mayor of Craigavon, of having to visit Kate and her family at her home just after Stephen was killed. She has been given a life sentence, and will never see her husband again. However, she has shown enormous courage, restraint and dignity in coping with her loss.”
“Mrs Carroll has rightly described the 14-year sentence handed down to one of those convicted as ‘disgusting’.
“Dissident republican terrorists are intent on deterring young people, mainly from the Roman Catholic community, from joining the PSNI because of fear of assassination. It is, therefore, vital that we do all we can to ensure that they do not succeed with this aim. If we want to encourage young people to choose policing as a career, one way of doing that would be to ensure that that career is made safer because those who murder police officers will go to prison, and go to prison for a very long time.”