DETECTIVES in Northern Ireland have welcomed a Court of Appeal decision to add five years to the sentence of a woman convicted of attempting to murder a police officer.
In August 2020 Christine Connor was sentenced to 20 years behind bars, with an extension period of four years under licence, after she was found guilty of luring police into an incident involving explosives by pretending to be a victim of domestic abuse.
The court heard that Connor, 35, from north Belfast, contacted the Police Service Northern Ireland (PSNI) on May 28, 2013, claiming she felt threatened by her boyfriend, who was “smashing up the house”.
When two police officers arrived at the address, they had two potentially life-threatening improvised explosive devices thrown at them.
Neither officer was harmed in the incident.
Connor was subsequently arrested and found guilty of attempted murder, as well as two counts of causing an explosion and one count of preparation of terrorist acts.
This month, the Court of Appeal dismissed Connor’s attempt to overturn her conviction and sentencing.
Instead, they increased her sentence to 25 years in prison, accompanied by the original extended licence period of four years.
She will also serve 15 years for related explosives and terrorism offences, to run concurrently.
Detective Superintendent Richard Campbell, of the PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch, said of the ruling: “We have worked tirelessly over seven years to bring Christine Connor to justice for the heinous crimes she committed.
“Today’s judgement demonstrates that those who engage in abhorrent plans to kill our police officers, while those officers work tirelessly to protect our communities, will be brought to justice and can expect to receive lengthy sentences from our courts.”
Referring to the incident in 2013, Det Supt Campbell said: “Thankfully neither of the officers were seriously injured, however they were left extremely traumatised by this horrific experience. It is good fortune that an officer was not killed that night.”
He explained: “Christine Connor callously made a call for help, pretending that her boyfriend had assaulted her and was ‘smashing up the house’.
"She exploited an all too familiar situation that victims find themselves in, domestic abuse, knowing that police officers would respond immediately to that call for help.
“The officers were responding to what they believed was a woman in fear of an abusive partner.
“They never expected to be the victims of an attempted murder bid that day when they left their homes to come on duty.
“Their primary focus was on keeping people safe and coming to the assistance of those in most need. Thankfully they got to go back home to their loved ones that day.”
He added: “Christine Connor did not care who she hurt or injured as she attempted to kill an officer as is demonstrated by the Appeal judge’s assessment that she had a “reckless disregard for the safety and lives of innocent residents and other civilians, such as passing motorists, in a residential area”.
“The court also made reference to the “cunning and deceit” employed by Ms Connor to lure two police officers to the scene, her “extensive planning and preparation”, her “central role in throwing the pipe bombs” and her “lack of remorse”.”
Det Supt Campbell is now hopeful that the Court’s decision will deter any other terrorists from attempting to engage in “murderous activity”.
“Christine Connor tried to have her conviction and sentence for these appalling crimes overturned but the court comprehensively dismissed her appeal and instead she now faces an increased period in prison,” he said.
“I welcome the fact the Director of Public Prosecutions referred the previous unduly lenient sentence to the Court of Appeal and also the decision by the Court to increase the sentence.”
He added: “I hope [the] outcome sends a clear message to anyone planning on engaging in murderous activity against police officers, or any other public servants working to keep our communities safe, that there is no place for this in Northern Ireland.
“Our communities want to thrive and not be dragged backwards by self-serving violent terrorists.”