30/06/2004

Soldiers' reinstatement 'wrong' says complaints assessor

The independent military complaints assessor has said that the Army's decision to reinstate two soldiers convicted of shooting a Belfast teenager "undermines" Army employment policy.

In his annual report the Independent Assessor of Military Complaints Procedures, Jim McDonald, concluded that the move by the Army to return Scots Guardsmen Mark Wright and James Fisher had served to undermine its credibility on employment issues.

Wright and Fisher were convicted of the murder of 18-year-old Peter McBride, who was shot as he ran away from a military checkpoint in the New Lodge area of north Belfast. Sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, on their release after serving six years the pair subsequently rejoined the Army.

Sinn Féin MLA for north Belfast and party spokesperson on policing and justice Gerry Kelly has called for the immediate removal of the two Scots Guardsmen.

Speaking on Tuesday evening Mr Kelly said: “Here we have the Independent Assessor for Military Complaint Procedures saying publicly that the McBride family have been enduring a long standing wrong.

"The British government should now order the immediate dismissal of these two convicted killers from the British army and allow the McBride family some closure on this injustice."

Mr Kelly pointed out that the statement follows on from a Court of Appeal ruling made in June 2003 that the army had been wrong to allow the soldiers to resume service in the regiment because of the "exceptional circumstances." He said that the MOD had "continued to ignore this ruling".

The north Belfast MLA said it was completely unacceptable that those convicted of murdering Peter McBride should be reinstated.

“I will be writing on this matter to the British government and Sinn Féin will continue to support the McBride family in their search for justice,” he added.

In his annual report, the Independent Assessor recommended that a High Court judge should be appointed to chair a tribunal to rule on such contentious issues.

Previous recommendations on the case by the Assessor have not been acted on.

The Assessors report was also critical of long delays in dealing with complaints made against the Army despite a relatively low number of recent cases.

(SP)

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