MP urges judges to increase sentence for murderers

Image copyright Robert Smith

A lawyer for two men jailed for murdering an Army sergeant says a judge will decide if their sentences should be increased.

Patrick Abbs is urging the court to sentence his clients, Ian Higson and Robert Smith, to at least 24 years and seven months in prison.

The former members of the Ulster Defence Association were all found guilty of murdering 36-year-old Richard Arbery.

The pair were sentenced to life at Belfast Crown Court in 2014.

They had been serving sentences in Maghaberry Prison, in Northern Ireland, when they were arrested in 2016 after Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) raided a property in Magherafelt.

Image copyright SCOPE Image caption Justice Minister David Ford was asked to approve the Parole Board’s ruling in this case

Fifty-eight-year-old Mr Higson, who was a former member of the UDA, and 57-year-old Mr Smith, who was a convicted kidnapper, will be sentenced on Thursday.

Mr Abbs said Justice Stephen Ticehurst would probably decide if the pair should be jailed for at least 24 years.

“If not that, then we will be seeking a jail term of 30 years plus,” he said.

If the judges do not order an increase in the sentences handed down to Mr Higson and Mr Smith, they will be regarded as having received a life sentence and will be eligible for parole after around 30 years in jail.

The judge is due to rule on the pair’s sentence after they have been sentenced.

The PSNI has appealed against the convictions, the judge will then rule on whether to allow the appeal.

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