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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 July, 2004, 08:23 GMT 09:23 UK
Family's shock at lenient sentence
 Nichola Dickson had been strangled and stabbed with a kitchen knife.
Nichola Dickson had been strangled and stabbed
The parents of a woman stabbed to death by her boyfriend say they are shocked by the Attorney General's ruling that his sentence was not unduly lenient.

David Thomas McCord, 34, from Alford Park, Dundonald, murdered Nichola Dickson in Ballycarry in 2003.

He was sentenced to life in prison and told he must serve at least 11 years before he could be considered for parole.

Lord Goldsmith concluded the tariff was adequate within sentencing guidelines.

Nichola's parents said they were shocked by the decision.

The 26-year-old's body was found by her mother in a bedroom at the house on the Hillhead Road.

We should all be working for more effective interventions to stop the levels of violence towards women that every year result in physical and emotional injury and leave families bereaved
Hilary Sidwell
Women's Aid

Her father Philip said her life was worth more than 11 years.

"I think it's an affront to humanity, the sentence. What the guy got doesn't merit what he has actually done," he said.

"If you put the thing into perspective, he actually didn't murder Nichola as such, he slaughtered her - he butchered her - and the sentence doesn't reflect that at all."

The Women's Aid Federation said the courts seemed to be saying murdering a woman who was your partner provoked a punishment of less than 12 years.

Hilary Sidwell, Director of Northern Ireland Women's Aid Federation said: "The message to abusive men needs to be that violence towards women will not be tolerated and that offenders will be severely punished.

"Women have the right to proper safety and justice and we should all be working for more effective interventions to stop the levels of violence towards women that every year result in physical and emotional injury and leave families bereaved."

Ulster Unionist East Antrim MP Roy Beggs said he was disappointed by the Attorney General's decision.

"There is a wider issue here that involves the disparity in sentencing between Northern Ireland and England and Wales," he said.

"Home Secretary David Blunkett toughened up the law on statutory life sentence tariffs in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, yet typically the Northern Ireland Office, instead of extending the changes to Northern Ireland opted for a consultation process on whether to introduce the new standards.

"Therefore families like Nichola Dicksons' have been doubly hurt by the knowledge that had this crime taken place in another part of the United Kingdom, their daughter's murderer would face a longer sentence automatically, at the very least 15 years.

"This clear inequality must end now."





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