Former prisoner of conscience Marian Price will not return to jail after an outstanding court case ended with a suspended sentence.
The veteran republican, accorded bail last year after pleading guilty to two offences, received a twelve-month sentence suspended for three years after judgement was passed on Tuesday. Other charges against Ms Price, also known by her married name, McGlinchey, were previously dismissed at Derry Magistrate’s Court in May 2012.
The remaining charges against her were based on her involvement in an Easter commemoration at which she held aloft a a statement issued in the name of the ‘Real IRA’; and because a mobile phone she purchased was used by the same organisation to contact the media.
The various charges were cited by the British Direct Ruler Owen Paterson to justify her internment without trial in May 2011. At the time, her imprisonment was described as a revocation of her previous release license, although her lawyers pointed out that having received a royal pardon in 1980, she was not subject to license revocation.
Throughout the two years of her internment, the veteran republican, who was force fed for more than six months while on hunger strike in 1973/74, suffered from both physical and mental illness. Vindictively held in isolation, her medical condition deteriorated significantly until an international human rights campaign succeeded in winning her hospital treatment and her ultimate release from custody in May 2013.
Sadly, her sister and comrade Dolores died while she was interned, in January last year.
Faced with an onerous and stressful trial, Ms Price chose to plead guilty to the relatively minor offences against her in November, and was accorded bail. On Tuesday she was handed only a suspended sentence after the judge said the 59-year-old “posed a low risk of reoffending”.
Judge Gordon Kerr accepted that she suffered “significant health problems” and stressed reports which suggested she was “no longer interested in political activity”.
Hardline unionist MP William McCrea said the judge’s failure to return Ms Price to jail was “outrageous”, while TUV leader Jim Allister said he was “dismayed” at what he said was “paltry” punishment.