Former Irish soldier Lisa Smith has lost an appeal against the severity of her sentence to 15 months in prison for being a member of the so-called Islamic State (IS) terror group.
Delivering the decision in the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice John Edwards dismissed the appeal and said the length of the sentence was legitimately within the discretion of the sentencing.
“We are satisfied sentencing was conducted with scrupulous fairness and appropriate regard for the evidence,” he said.
The 41-year-old ex-Defence Forces member was found guilty in May of IS membership but was cleared of a separate charge of financing terrorism after a nine-week trial at Dublin’s Special Criminal Court.
She had pleaded not guilty to charges of membership of IS and providing funds to benefit the group.
The maximum sentence for the offence is eight years.
It was the position of the appellant that the court erred in its sentence and that it was “excessive in all circumstances”.
Mr Justice Edwards said the court did not agree with complaints from the appellant that the sentence was “excessive”.
“It remains State policy that membership of an unlawful organisation should be a criminal offence. It is the law and we must comply with the law,” he said.
He said members are “subversive of our values and are committed to destroying them”.
He said IS showed intolerance, brutality and extreme violence in torture, beheadings, drownings and “other outrages”.
“The most egregious crimes known to man,” he said.
Mr Justice Edwards said IS is an “an exporter of terrorism” and its adherents are often radicalised.
He said adherents posed a greater security threat to Ireland and noted the Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan attacks were carried out by IS returnees.
“Active participants are more culpable. The greater the involvement, the greater the culpability,” he said.
Even in the case of “purely passive adherence”, there is the “intrinsic potential for harm” by providing assistance to “those who seek to damage our State”.
He said counsel for the appellant claimed Smith’s role as a member of IS was “wholly passive”.
“We accept it was fully passive once she arrived in Syria. But the mere fact she travelled with her eyes open and in the knowledge of what IS stood for was an overt expression of support for that organisation,” he said.
Mr Justice Edwards said the custody threshold was crossed and culpability was somewhat aggravated by Smith’s moving to Syria and living under IS rules.
“We find no error with regard to the headline sentence,” he said.
Smith, from Dundalk, was described in court last year as an “extremely vulnerable person” who was “treated like a servant” by her late husband when in Syria.
Mr Justice Edwards said it was not inevitable that she would face a custodial sentence.
He added that by not pleading guilty, Smith did not avail of that substantial mitigation available to her.
He said that “proper regard” was given to her previous good character, her positive impact on society in her military service, her vulnerability, her role as a mother, and that it was reported she was considered low risk of reoffending.
He said the Court of Appeal did not detect any error on part of the sentencing court and that a 50% reduction in the sentence was a synthesis of all mitigating circumstances.