Belfast woman sentenced to 20 years in prison over attempts to kill police

A Belfast woman has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for attempting to kill police officers.

Christine Connor, 35, was convicted at Belfast Crown Court last month of attempted murder and causing an explosion likely to endanger life.

During sentencing at Belfast Crown Court on Monday, Judge Stephen Fowler said Connor remains in his view a “committed dissident republican”.

“She is still wedded to violence … the defendant’s role in these attacks demonstrates her high level of commitment to the dissident republican cause and willingness to murder without remorse,” he said.

“I find the defendant dangerous.

“I consider the culpability of the defendant high and the harm intended murderous.

“The defendant is suffering from significant ill health, mental and physical. She suffers from diabetes and hyperthyroidism, she has in the past and continues to suffer mental health issues. She is clinically obese and at present vulnerable if she was to contract Covid-19.

“I have no doubt that custody will present significant difficulties for her and indeed for those treating her in Hydebank Wood.”

The judge said the appropriate sentencing would be in the region of 24 years. However, taking into account mitigating factors including the defendant’s poor health, he sentenced her to 20 years with four years’ extended licence.

Connor appeared at Belfast Crown Court via videolink from Hydebank Wood prison to hear the sentencing.

The court previously heard how she had posed as a Swedish model to entrap men into taking part in a terror plot that involved pipe bomb attacks on police in north Belfast in May 2013.

Connor, whose address is subject to a reporting restriction, denied the charges linked to two incidents in the north of the city in May 2013. However, in a lengthy judgment in July, Judge Fowler dismissed her explanations.

During the first incident on May 16 2013, an early morning 999 call was made by a female who claimed she had seen an object she thought was a bomb in a garden on the Ligoniel Road.

Officers observed a large plume of smoke in the area shortly after the call on CCTV and when police went to the scene they observed two scorch marks on the road.

In the second incident on May 20 of the same year, police officers attended the Crumlin Road after receiving a call from a woman who claimed she had been attacked by her boyfriend.

It was there that two pipe bombs were thrown from an alleyway. The first exploded close to an officer’s foot, who ran away but tripped on a kerb, after which the second device was thrown. Nobody was seriously injured.

Following a non-jury trial which commenced at the end of last November and ran until mid-December, Judge Fowler said a “compelling circumstantial and forensic case” had been presented.

The sentence was welcomed by police.

Detective Superintendent Richard Campbell, of the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Serious Crime Branch said: “Today’s sentencing is the result of excellent joint working between the PSNI and West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit and other UK police services. I would like to thank all officers who were involved in bringing Christine Connor to justice.

“Thankfully she is now in prison paying the ultimate price for her crimes.”