Belfast woman Christine Connor has been sentenced to 20 years in jail over an alleged plot to encourage online acquaintances to carry out attacks against the PSNI, despite a judge’s admission that she suffers from “significant” mental ill-health.
Ms Connor previously won a retrial in the case, but following a second non-jury trial earlier this year, Judge Stephen Fowler insisted Ms Connor was a “committed dissident republican” worthy of a punitive sentence.
In a case that has always appeared farcical, the court again heard allegations that in 2013 she had posed as a Swedish model on the internet to ‘catfish’ strange men into acting out the role of the IRA in two separate pipe bomb attacks.
During the trial, Ms Connor said that because she admitted supporting armed struggle, she was seen as “born bad... born guilty”. She added: “I support Nasa, but I’m not an astronaut.”
The judge pointed to circumstantial evidence to declare Ms Connor had high culpability in the “sinister” home-made pipe bombs, neither of which resulted in any injuries. Describing the north Belfast woman as “dangerous”, he issued an extraordinary tariff of 24 years, with the final four years to be served on licence.
Ms Connor has already served several years on remand at Hydebank woman’s prison in Belfast, where she has been subjected to serial strip-searches and physical and mental abuse. Earlier this month, it was reported that she was being refused her clothing, showers and exercise.
Friends of Ms Connor, who is not aligned to any republican organisation, blasted what they said was the “railroading” of the 35-year-old by the British judicial system. They have urged supporters to write cards to the following address:
Hydebank Wood prison
Belfast BT8 8NA