Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

South Armagh prisoner successfully appeals fresh drug smuggling sentence

A former dissident republican currently serving a 12 year sentence for making explosives has successfully appealed against a fresh sentence for smuggling drugs into prison.

Senior judges reduced Turlough McAllister, a son of former Sinn Fein councillor Jim McAllister and formerly of Lisseraw Road in Crossmaglen, received a 12 year sentence in 2010 for grinding down fertiliser to be used in making pipe bombs. He also admitted having shotgun cartridges and a handbook on how to make improvised munitions found in his home.

He was handed an additional 16 month sentence in 2014 for attempting to smuggle drugs into prison on his return from a period of pre-release home leave.

Prison officers searched McAllister and discovered sleeping tablets, stimulants and other pills with a combined value of £500 – but estimated to be worth up to five times as much behind bars.

During an appeal hearing last Monday, defence lawyers argued that his 16 month sentence was manifestly excessive and failed to take into account McAllister’s steps to rehabilitate himself which have resulted in him becoming narcotics-free and securing a HGV licence and a job before he was sent back to prison.

The Court of Appeal was told that he has “turned his back on those still waging a campaign of violence and terror and destruction.”

A defence barrister said: “He has put the dissidents behind him with a vengeance, and that takes some courage… particularly in the community he lives in.”

Senior judges reduced the new term after accepting that the Crossmaglen man’s efforts to rehabilitate himself and stay off drugs amounted to exceptional personal circumstances.

Mr Justice Colton accepted a deterrent sentence was required for smuggling drugs into prison, but allowing the appeal, he stressed the public interest in rehabilitating offenders.

“It’s clear that in terms of personal mitigation there’s much to commend the appellant,” he said.

He confirmed McAllister’s sentence is to be cut from 16 months to 12, half to be served in custody and half on licence.