Court of Appeal refuses to hear bail application by Lisa Smith

Former Irish soldier was sentenced to 15 months in jail for joining Islamic State in Syria

The Court of Appeal refused to hear a bail application on Wednesday afternoon for Lisa Smith, a former Irish soldier who was sentenced five days ago for joining Islamic State (Isis) when she travelled to Syria in 2015.

However, the three-judge court did agree to take the “unusual step” of first hearing an appeal against the severity of her 15-month sentence when the courts return from their summer break on October 4th, before an appeal against her conviction is heard.

Smith watched via video-link from prison as her lawyers asked the court to consider an immediate bail application.

Mr Justice George Birmingham, presiding at the three-judge court, said that the application would require “considerable preparation” and said he has not yet received a copy of the verdict and sentence judgments delivered by the Special Criminal Court. He said at this point there is “no possibility to deal in a substantial way with all the issues”.


While Smith intends to appeal her conviction, Mr Justice Birmingham said the court would be willing to hear the sentence appeal on October 4th, before hearing the conviction appeal.

One of the grounds of appeal against the severity of her sentence will be that the Special Criminal Court did not give enough credit to Smith for the time she spent in refugee camps in Syria before she returned to Ireland in 2019.

Her lawyers argued that the time she spent in “appalling conditions” in the Al-Hawl and Ain Issa camps in Syria, combined with a nightly curfew she has lived with since returning to Ireland, meant she had already served about four years.

At Wednesday’s hearing Mr Justice Birmingham told the lawyers on both sides to look at a recent judgment by the appeals court relating to a man who fled this jurisdiction and ended up in immigration detention in the Philippines before returning to Ireland. He said that it might be of assistance to Smith’s lawyers as the judgment states that a sentencing court here “should have regard” to time spent in detention in such cases.

In May, Smith became the first person to be convicted in an Irish court of an Islamic terrorist offence committed abroad when the three-judge, non-jury Special Criminal Court found that she joined Isis when she travelled to Syria in 2015.

The 40-year-old from Dundalk, Co Louth had pleaded not guilty to membership of an unlawful terrorist group, Islamic State, between October 28th, 2015 and December 1st, 2019.

Sentencing her to 15 months in prison, Mr Justice Tony Hunt noted that while Smith is a low risk for re-offending, she was persistent and determined in her efforts to travel to Syria and join Isis and has shown no remorse for her actions.