Police widow's disgust as dissident republican is jailed for 14 years
PUBLISHED May 21, 2012
Constable Stephen Carroll was shot dead by the Continuity IRA in Craigavon, County Armagh, in March 2009.
Today Brendan McConville, 41, was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years for the killing while John Paul Wootton, 21, must serve at least 14 years before being considered for release. The men were found guilty of murdering the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officer earlier this year.
Constable Carroll, 48, from Banbridge, County Down, was the first policeman killed by republican terrorists since the peace process reforms which saw the Royal Ulster Constabulary replaced by the PSNI.
His widow, Kate Carroll, said she was disgusted by the sentence given to Wootton, who was 17 at the time the murder was planned.
Mrs Carroll said: "It gives the message out that it is fine to kill a policeman here because you get a rap on the knuckles.
"Justice has been done? Not for us it has not. Stephen is still in his grave."
She attacked the disparity in sentencing between Northern Ireland and England. In England the maximum sentence for killing a policeman is 30 years.
"It should be the same everywhere. You cannot make exceptions in one country. It is disgusting."
Lord Justice Paul Girvan told Belfast Crown Court: "The killing comes at a time when terrorist activity has thankfully substantially decreased and it has been wholly rejected, as demonstrated by the will of the people.
"Any terrorist who continues to activate that terrorism at this point in time must be deterred from continuing in that course and any sentence must reflect that need for deterrence."
He said they failed to show any remorse, but the statements from Constable Carroll's family were moving.
"These statements illustrate graphically the dreadful losses."
The judge added: "No person with any sense of humanity or compassion could fail to be moved by seeing or reading of the devastation visited because self-appointed executioners decided that they are entitled to sacrifice a life in furtherance of terrorist goals roundly rejected by right-thinking members of society."
The murdered officer's widow Kate Carroll was in court as the sentence was handed down to the pair.
A victim impact statement from Mrs Carroll read to the court said: "I feel that I have not only had my soul mate, best friend and future taken away from me, but I did not even get a chance to say goodbye properly.
"Stephen was my life and religion and losing him was heartbreaking, gut-wrenching."
McConville, who wore a grey striped top and had a long beard, grown as part of a no-wash protest by dissident republican inmates at Maghaberry prison in Co Antrim, showed no emotion as the sentence was set.
Wootton wore a grey top and also had a beard grown during the prison protest.
He waved to supporters in the public gallery when he arrived in court but sat motionless throughout the proceedings.
Lawyers for McConville, of Aldervale, Tullygally in Craigavon, and Wootton, of Collingdale, Lurgan, County Armagh, had presented mitigating factors to the judge.
Wootton was also convicted of collecting information for the use of terrorism, after trying to obtain the address of another policeman weeks before the murder.
His mother Sharon Wootton, who sat in the dock beside the pair, was handed a 12-month suspended sentence for removing computers linked to her son from their home.
Con Carroll was shot dead two days after two British soldiers were murdered in a Real IRA gun attack outside their barracks in Antrim town.
He died of a single gunshot wound to the head as he sat in an unmarked police car while colleagues attended a 999 call in the Lismore Manor area.
A brick was thrown through the window of a house in the private development an hour earlier, prompting the occupants to call the police.
The gun used in the attack, an AK 47 assault rifle, was found hidden beneath an oil tank, wrapped in a black bin bag and clingfilm, in the garden of a house not far from where the officer was murdered.
A coat belonging to McConville, which was recovered in the boot of a Citroen Saxo, may have been wrapped around the gun when the shots were fired, the trial heard.
During the nine-week trial it also emerged that Wootton's car had been fitted with a military tracking device and was under surveillance at the time Con Carroll was gunned down.
It showed the car was parked close to the murder scene at the time of the shooting and had driven close by McConville's house later that night.
McConville and Wootton refused to answer questions during scores of police interviews and they also decided to exercise their right not to go into the witness box and give evidence in the trial, which was heard without a jury.
McConville was a Sinn Fein councillor, serving one term in Craigavon Borough Council in the late 1990s, before parting company with the mainstream republican movement which ultimately agreed to accept the reformed policing service.
Wootton was described by people who knew him as having a reputation for trouble that began in his teens.
He is too young to have known the Troubles but his trial heard he had shown a hatred for police and tried to secure details of an officer's address by quizzing a youth who was dating the policeman's daughter.