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PFNI condemns sentence for 'cynical and sinister' pipe bomber

The leaders of Northern Ireland’s rank and file officers have called for an urgent review of sentencing guidelines following the conviction of a woman who attempted to kill officers using pipe bombs.

The Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI) said the law needed to be toughened after Christine Connor was jailed for the attempted murder of an officer and causing an explosion.

Connor, 35, who was described as a dissident Republican, was sentenced at Belfast Crown Court to 20 years imprisonment. The judge described the attacks in May 2013 as "cynical and sinister''.

In one of the attacks she threw two pipe bomb at officers after luring them to a location by claiming she was the victim of domestic violence.

Connor had claimed she had been set up by a police informer but this was rejected due to compelling CCTV and mobile phone evidence. Analysis of a computer found at her home had revealed online searches including 'how to make pipe bombs in your kitchen'.

She was found guilty of one count of attempted murder, one count of preparation of terrorist acts and two counts of causing explosion likely to endanger life.

The Police Federation of Northern Ireland revealed that one of the officers involved in “this callous and cowardly attack” is still extremely traumatised seven years after it happened.

Giving sentence, Judge Stephen Fowler warned that she had shown no remorse and posed a danger to the public in the future.

"The aim and intentions behind these attacks was to kill police... the devices were effective anti-personnel devices and their planning and deployment were detailed,” he said.

"The defendant was the driving force behind the attacks, securing the making of the pipe bombs, the reconnoitre of the attack locations and throwing the bombs.”

An accomplice, who she met online using the identity of a Swedish model, was also arrested but was later found dead in woodland.

The investigation had involved several UK forces.

PSNI Det Supt Richard Campbell said: "This was an attack on police officers, who were carrying out their role of protecting communities. I would like to pay particular thanks to them. This was a traumatic experience for them and I acknowledge that as victims they have waited a very long time for today's outcome.

"Today's conviction is the result of excellent joint working between the PSNI and West Mercia Police alongside the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit and we will now await the sentencing."

The Police Federation of Northern Ireland warned that despite the judge’s concerns, Connor could be freed in eight years.

PFNI Chair, Mark Lindsay, said: “This is not a sentence which wholly reflects the impact of her crimes on the victims. The Executive should act to correct this situation, to at least bring us into line with England and Wales where the attempted murder of a police officer would attract a more substantial period of imprisonment.

“An urgent and realistic review of sentencing guidelines is needed to reassurance officers that those who set out to murder or maim them will be adequately punished.” 

He added: “Connor showed no remorse and didn’t plead guilty, which meant the victims of her crimes had to relive the day she tried to murder them in Court. We have to have real and effective sentencing to protect the very people who safeguard and protect society.”

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