Northern Ireland

Narrow Water wreaths vandal Robert McKeegan has sentence reduced

Robert James McKeegan
Image caption Robert James McKeegan admitted damaging the memorial in October last year

A lorry driver who vandalised a memorial to 18 soldiers murdered in County Down almost 40 years ago, has had his sentence reduced.

County Armagh man Robert James McKeegan, 44, had previously admitted wrecking the Narrow Water memorial near Warrenpoint on 4 October last year.

The soldiers were killed in two IRA booby-trap bomb attacks near Narrow Water Castle in August 1979.

His sentence has been reduced from 12 months to six.

In February, McKeegan, of Beech Drive, Bleary, was given a six-month prison sentence and ordered to spend a further six months on licence after his release.

Judge Gordon Kerr told Newry County Appeal Court on Wednesday that while he believed the original sentence was "excessive," he considered that "an immediate custodial sentence, is fully justified" but cut the six months to be spent on licence.

At a previous hearing, the court heard that CCTV footage showed McKeegan getting out of his lorry while using his mobile phone and "kicking out at crosses and wreaths, damaging the memorial".

He admitted causing criminal damage to a memorial belonging to Royal British Legion, intending to damage such property or being reckless as to whether such property would be damaged.

Giving McKeegan a six-month sentence, Judge Kerr said that unlike the lower court, he had the benefit of a probation report and from that and defence submissions, his view was that "there was no particular animus" on McKeegan's part.

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