Call for review follows Kate’s disgust at Wootton’s ‘lenient’ sentence

Kate Carroll speaking to the press after the sentancing for the murder of her husband Stephen
Kate Carroll speaking to the press after the sentancing for the murder of her husband Stephen

FOLLOWING criticism of the sentence handed down to one the men convicted of killing Banbridge police constable Stephen Carroll, an official call has been made for the sentence to be reviewed.

The chairman of the justice committee Paul Givan is reported to have written to the Director of Public Prosecutions asking him to review the 14-year minimum sentence handed to 21-year-old John Paul Wootton, who was 17 at the time of the murder.

The letter, written on behalf of Constable Carroll’s widow Kate, comes ahead of an assembly debate planned for June 11 to discuss the sentencing procedures for those who kill police officers.

Constable Carroll was shot dead as he sat in a police car attending the scene of an emergency call-out in a housing estate in Craigavon in March 2009.

Former Sinn Fein councillor Brendan McConville (41) and John Paul Wootton did not react as they were informed by Lord Justice Paul Girvan that they will remain in prison for 25 years and 14 years respectively.

The judge said he had no doubt the killers would have murdered more than one police officer had they been presented with the opportunity.

Kate Carroll said she was “disgusted” by Wootton’s sentence, saying it would not act as a deterrant to others who might commit such a crime.

Referring to the process for sentencing in England compared to Northern Ireland, Kate said the differences are appalling.

It should be the same everywhere - you can’t make exceptions in one country. It’s disgusting,” Kate said.

“It gives the message out that it’s fine to kill a policeman here, because you get a rap on the knuckles. Justice has been done? Not for us it hasn’t. Stephen is still in his grave.”

Wootton’s 39-year-old mother Sharon pleaded guilty earlier this year to obstructing police in the course of their investigations when she removed computers from her Lurgan home.

She was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for three years - and smiled as she walked out of Belfast Crown Court yesterday afternoon.

It was revealed yesterday that McConville was convicted of possession of firearms in suspicious circumstances in 2008 but was given a suspended sentence.

Earlier prosecution barrister Ciaran Murphy QC read from a statement Kate wrote to the court detailing the devastating impact her husband’s death had had on her.

“I feel that I have not only had my soul mate and best friend taken away from me, but I did not even get the chance to say goodbye properly. Steve was my life and my religion and losing him was gut-wrenching, heart-breaking and utterly devastating,” Kate wrote.

Mr Murphy QC told those present in court - including supporters of the defendants as well as members of the Carroll family - that the killing had been “a terrorist murder”. During the trial it was heard that Constable Carroll was lured to the estate in an attempt to shoot dead any police officer.

Defence QC Brendan Kelly, acting for McConville, told the judge there were mitigating factors in the case of his defendant. The lawyer said there was no evidence, on the findings of the court, that McConville had been the gunman who fired the fatal shot.

It was also revealed that McConville suffered a mini-stroke during his custody at Maghaberry, leaving him partially paralysed for five days.

Leader readers hit out at the sentencing on the paper’s Facebook page, saying it will never match Constable Carroll’s family’s pain.

“Not long enough, the Carroll family have been given a lifetime of grief. Tougher sentences needed, people have served longer in jail for less.”