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

Gavin Coyle was given a six-year sentence after pleading guilty to IRA membership and supplying a car for use by terrorists.

Rebecca Black
Monday 09 October 2023 14:13 BST
Gavin Coyle, 33, of Omagh, was given a six-year sentence (PA)
Gavin Coyle, 33, of Omagh, was given a six-year sentence (PA) (PA Archive)

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

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.

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.

PPS spokesperson

The bomb exploded as the officer drove to work. They survived but were left with what has been described as permanent disfiguring injuries.

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.”

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in