1 July 2004 Edition

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British Army wrong on McBride killers

The British Army was wrong to reinstate the two British soldiers convicted of the murder of Belfast teenager Peter McBride, the army's own assessor of military complaints has ruled.

Scots Guardsmen James Fisher and Mark Wright were convicted of murder in 1995 and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment. Within three years, the men had been released and reinstated within the British Army.

Jim McDonald, the British assessor of military complaints for the North of Ireland, has now said that the decision to allow Wright and Fisher rejoin their regiments after being jailed for the murder of an unarmed nationalist teenager has been a major blow to the British Army's reputation.

"When the [British] Army is dismissing young men for smoking pot, the fact that it has failed to do anything with these two guys undermines its credibility. They should not have been reinstated," said McDonald.

He said that ongoing legal action continued to attract adverse publicity and the longer the case continues, the more difficult it becomes to find a resolution. A resolution is necessary in the interests of justice, he said.

The mother of the north Belfast teenager, Jean McBride, welcomed the assessor's comments and described Jim McDonald as "the only person in a position of authority who understands the wrong that was done to our family". The McBride family has brought a number of legal actions against the British Army's decision over a number of years.

A spokesperson for the NIO also welcomed the assessor's findings but said that the matter was for the MoD. NIO Minister John Spellar, in his role as British Armed Forces Minister, was part of a panel that allowed the two Guardsmen to remain in the British Army. The MoD refused to comment pending a judicial review of the issue.

Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly said that the British Army should immediately dismiss the two soldiers. "I will be writing on this matter to the British Government and Sinn Féin will continue to support the McBride family in their fight for justice," said Kelly.

Meanwhile, US Congressmen visiting the North are to be told that the same British Army commander in charge of the regiment to which Fisher and Wright belonged heads a private British firm that secured a $300 million contract from the Pentagon to coordinate security in Iraq.

Lieutenant Colonel Tim Spicer, even after leaving the British Army, has campaigned on behalf of the two Scots Guards convicted of murder and from his former regiment. He led the campaign to free the two killers and worked to secure their promotion within the British Army after their release.


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