Irish Republican News · January 14, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Loyalists freed on charges

A unionist paramilitary has walked free from court despite admitting gathering ‘targeting’ information on republicans. The offence carries a 10-year maximum jail sentence.

It was the second suspended jail term the individual had received within months, following a conviction for drugs offences.

Nationalist anger at the lenient sentences being handed to unionist paramilitaries reached a head last year.

Last month Lurgan loyalist Gordon Hutchinson was also freed on a suspended three-year jail term after admitting making a record and possessing information on republicans.

The defence argued that much of the information gathered was incomplete or inaccurate. Handing down a suspended sentence, the judge claimed Hutchinson had no intention of using the information.

In another case, a Lurgan couple walked free from court in connection with a seizure of ammunition and LVF unionist paramilitary materials.

The judge claimed he could not determine whether the husband and wife jointly kept the bullets or which one had done so.

SDLP assembly member Dolores Kelly branded Hutchinson’s sentence “ridiculous” and said a letter had been sent to the attorney general, who has the power to refer it to the Court of Appeal if he deems it unduly lenient.

“That’s a serious charge. A member of the Real IRA convicted of the same crime was recently sentenced to six years, but Hutchinson was able to walk away scot free,” she said.

“Those associated with the LVF and other loyalists seem to be getting unduly lenient sentences. The public is fed up with it and it is time to ask questions.”

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© 2004 Irish Republican News