Man jailed for plot to kill police officer may have sentence referred for appeal

Northern Ireland’s prosecution service is considering referring a six-year sentence for a man involved in a plot to kill a police officer for appeal.

Gavin Coyle, 46, from Omagh, will serve four years in prison after pleading guilty to IRA membership and providing a car to be used by terrorists.

That car was used in an operation to plant a bomb under the car of a serving police officer in May 2008.

The Tyrone brigade of the Real IRA claimed responsibility for the attack.

At Belfast Crown Court on Friday, Judge Patricia Smyth sentenced Coyle to six years, and he will have to serve two thirds before he will become eligible for release.

On Monday, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said it is considering whether there is legal ground to refer the sentence to the Court of Appeal.

An application to the Court of Appeal must be made within 28 days of when the sentence was handed down.

A PPS spokesperson said: “While sentencing is a matter for the judiciary, the Director of Public Prosecutions does have the power to refer particular sentences to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that they may be unduly lenient.

“An unduly lenient sentence is one that falls outside the range of sentences that a judge, taking into consideration all relevant factors and having regard to sentencing guidance, could reasonably consider appropriate.

“We are considering whether there is a legal ground to refer the sentence in this case to the Court of Appeal for consideration.”

TUV leader Jim Allister said he wrote to the director of the PPS urging him to appeal against the sentence, describing it as “pitifully low”.

“I believe that the sentence as it stands neither fits the crime nor provides a deterrent to would-be terrorists,” he said.

“The current sentence suggests that the life of police officers is undervalued and sends an signal to those minded to engage in terrorism that the courts are minded to be lenient.”

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