Family’s trauma as Ballycarry woman’s killer is released

The mother and brother of Ballycarry murder victim Nichola Dickson are to meet the Attorney General today (Thursday), after it emerged that her killer is already back on the streets.

Twenty-six-year-old Nichola was stabbed to death by her partner, David McCord at her Hillhead Road home in 2004.

The Dundonald man was sentenced to a minimum of 11 years in prison.

But it has emerged that McCord has effectively been released six months ahead of the tariff.

And East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs said the situation “makes a mockery of the term life sentence”.

The Ulster Unionist representative has agreed to accompany Nichola’s mother, Linda Brown, and sibling Gareth Smyth, to Belfast today to discuss the case with Attorney General John Larkin, QC.

McCord has been out of prison on a pre-release scheme since the start of July.

Mr Beggs said: “It seems no time at all since the controversy around the lenient sentence handed out to the murderer of Nichola Dickson in Ballycarry in my constituency of East Antrim.

“That fact in itself shows that the life sentence handed down in this case makes a mockery of the term ‘life sentence’.

“The murderer was sentenced in June 2004 with a minimum tariff of 11 years, which meant that with time spent on remand the earliest he would be considered for release would be January 2014.

“Yet he has been out of prison on a pre-release scheme since the start of July this year.”

The UUP man added that Nichola’s case also raised questions about the way information on pre-release schemes are provided to victims’ families.

He claimed the correspondence sent to Linda about McCord’s pre-release was “not clear and unambiguous”.

“Linda found out almost by accident that he (McCord) is already on the streets. That has contributed to a re-traumatisation of Linda and her family,” Mr Beggs said.

“It was emphasised by the authorities at the time of sentencing that 11 years was only a minimum tariff, and that the prisoner would not automatically be released.

“In light of the current circumstances these assurance are now ringing very hollow indeed.”

Mr Beggs referred to the “discrepancy” between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK in terms of life sentence tariff guidelines.

“I have to ask what exactly have our MPs at Westminster been doing since 2005 about ending this anomaly?

“Similarly we have had a Minister for Justice at Stormont talking of reviewing and consulting about life sentence guidelines for over three years now. This situation simply should not have arisen,” Mr Beggs concluded.

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