06 January 2006

Victims’ body calls british army racist

Daily Ireland

Soldiers expelled for assault in England while Belfast victim’s murderers stay in army

Jarlath Kearney

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Kelly McBride - click to view

The family of Belfast teenager Peter McBride – murdered by the British army in September 1992 – have expressed anger after two Household Cavalry soldiers were expelled from the army following convictions for assault.
Kelly McBride, along with her family and supported by the Pat Finucane Centre, has spent 13 years campaigning for the army to discharge two soldiers who shot her 18-year-old brother in the back.
Instead, Scots Guardsmen James Fisher and Mark Wright were readmitted to the British army on the grounds of so-called “exceptional circumstances” after their early release from prison in 1998.
Both soldiers returned to active service and British prime minister Tony Blair has since described the case as an “internal employment matter” for the British army.
Despite Belfast High Court concluding on two separate occasions that there were no exceptional circumstances in the case, the British government has refused to intervene.
By contrast, the Ministry of Defence confirmed yesterday that two soldiers have been expelled by the British army after receiving convictions for actual bodily harm. The convictions related to an early morning affray in Norwich last July. No statement has yet been made about a third soldier who was also convicted in relation to the incident.
All of the soldiers received suspended sentences for their actions. Two of the trio previously spent time with their regiments in the North and in Bosnia.
“The decision to discharge is made by the commanding officer after a great deal of consideration. It may happen quite often that they are discharged, certainly for a crime such as this, but it is not necessarily a foregone conclusion,” a MoD spokesperson said yesterday.
Kelly McBride last night told Daily Ireland that the British army’s preferential treatment of her brother’s murderers stemmed from “a racist mentality”.
“These soldiers were discharged because the assault took place on their own home ground,” Ms McBride said.
“I am really shocked by this. There is a racist mentality involved because if my brother had been a local teenager killed over there [in England] I’m sure Fisher and Wright would have been discharged.
“It kind of grabs you by the heart that my brother’s life meant basically nothing because he was Irish, yet something like an assualt happens over there and the soldiers are discharged,” Ms McBride said.
The campaign for justice in Peter McBride’s case has received widespread cross-party and international support, including the backing of London Mayor Ken Livingstone.
In a statement to Daily Ireland last night, the British army’s press office in the North said: “We can’t discuss individual cases but MoD policy is quite clear. Where a soldier receives a custodial sentence, he or she will be discharged from the army unless there are exceptional circumstances, ie. Fisher and Wright.
“However, if a soldier receives a non-custodial sentence, ie. a suspended sentence, fine or probation, then the matter is referred back to his or her commanding officer who may decide to discharge the soldier depending on the circumstances of the particular case.”

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