Irish Republican News · October 18, 2014
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Anger as Craigavon Two sentence is extended
Anger as Craigavon Two sentence is extended

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Miscarriage of justice victim John Paul Wootton has had his life sentence tariff increased by four years by the Court of Appeal, despite the chief justice admitting that the youth played no identifiable role in the CIRA action for which he received a life sentence.

The panel of three judges increased Mr Wootton’s life sentence tariff from 14 to 18 years due to the “aggravating factors” of the gun attack in which PSNI man Stephen Carroll died. They also confirmed their decision not to alter with the minimum 25-year sentence which Brendan McConville, also wrongly jailed for the same attack, will serve.

The director of the Crown’s Prosecution Service, Barra McGrory, had argued that both men’s jail terms were unduly lenient.

Carroll was ambushed and shot dead by the Continuity IRA at Lismore Manor, Craigavon in March 2009. A circumstantial case against them at the non-jury trial involved DNA and other evidence.

Mr Wootton’s car was said to have been near the scene of the attack and driven off within minutes of the killing. Gun residue was allegedly found on a coat linked to Mr McConville which was later recovered from the vehicle.

In May an attempt to have their convictions overturned was rejected. The case then switched to a prosecution challenge against the sentences handed down to the pair.

Prosecutors argued that a deterrent element should be considered. Leaving the minimum 25-year term on Mr McConville unchanged, Judge Declan Morgan claimed Mr Wootton’s offence was of being “a willing participant” in the attack, but admitted that the “precise nature of his role in the offence has not been established”.

He dismissed the defence’s concerns over the safety conviction, as well as the point that Wootton was still only 17 at the time of the attack.

“We have taken into account the effect of double jeopardy arising from his exposure to this reference and in the circumstances we substitute a tariff of 18 years,” he said, without explanation.

‘SCAPEGOATS’

The Republican Network for Unity said that Judge Morgan’s comments should by themselves now render the conviction unsafe.

“However, the lessons of history show that Britain will secure a scapegoat at any cost.

“This grotesque increasing of John Paul’s sentence is a way to mask the fact that John Paul Wootton is an innocent man. Snatched from his home at 17 years old and sent to prison on spurious charges designed to pander to Britain’s need for a conviction, John Paul has spent 5 years behind bars for something he simply didn’t do.”

Campaigners have pointed to signs of deliberate sabotage in the case.

“RNU call on all right thinking people to redouble their efforts to highlight the case and secure the release of the Craigavon two. The fact that this case exists must concern all individuals across this society”.

The ‘Justice for the Craigavon Two’ campaign said the increased sentence was designed to “cloak” the fact that Wootton and McConville are victims of one of the “most blatant” miscarriages of justice in recent times.

They also pointed to the continued use of Diplock (non-jury) courts and ‘Special Powers’ against republican suspects such as the Craigavon Two.

Describing the men as “scapegoats” for a system “determined to get someone, get anyone”, they said that case had been filled with “abuses, abnormalities, outright lies and underhand and devious tactics” by every strand of the judicial process in the Six Counties.

“The spying by MI5, the destruction of evidence by the SAS, the sabotage of the appeal by the PSNI, the planting of evidence by the prison service, all set the tone and illustrated the lengths the system has sought to maintain the convictions of Brendan and John Paul.”

They vowed to redouble their campaign. “More and more are reading the case files the facts, and are coming to the same conclusions we have come to,” they said.

© 2014 Irish Republican News