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Monday, 13 May, 2002, 06:16 GMT 07:16 UK
Durkan seeks answers over guards
Mark Wright (left) and James Fisher each served six years
Mark Wright (left) and James Fisher served six years
SDLP leader Mark Durkan has written to the prime minister over the case of two Scots Guards convicted of murder.

Mark Wright and James Fisher each served six years of a life sentence for the murder of Belfast teenager Peter McBride in 1992.

Both men were allowed to remain in the Army, a move challenged in the courts by the McBride family.

Speaking on Monday, Mr Durkan said he wanted Tony Blair to tell him "what message this sends out about the value that the British Government places on civilian life in Northern Ireland".

"Peter McBride was an innocent father of two.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan
Mark Durkan wants answers over guards' case
"He was shot in the back by soldiers as he ran away from a checkpoint," said Mr Durkan.

"They lied on oath in court claiming that he was carrying a coffee jar bomb. The judge found that this was completely untrue and convicted them of murder."

Mark Durkan, who is Northern Ireland's deputy first minister, described the Army's decision to keep the pair in its ranks as "outrageous".

"The SDLP believes that murder is murder. It doesn't matter who carried it out - it should be treated equally seriously.

"The handling of the McBride case calls this into question and offends against basic standards of justice and human rights."

High Court

Meanwhile, Peter McBride's mother Jean has asked the Queen why the soldiers have been allowed to stay in the Army.

In an open letter published in the Irish News newspaper, Mrs McBride asks the Queen, as the colonel-in-chief of the soldiers' regiment, why Mark Wright and James Fisher are still in the Army despite murdering her son.

A legal challenge to the Army ruling failed in the High Court in Belfast last month.

Peter McBride was shot in the back
Peter McBride was shot in the back
An application for a judicial review of the decision was made by Jean McBride.

The original Army inquiry ruled that the men had made an "error of judgement", and that they should therefore escape dishonourable discharge on the grounds of "exceptional circumstances".

Mrs McBride won a High Court case in September 1999, overturning the decision to reinstate the two guardsmen in their regiment.

In May 2000, the Ministry of Defence said that senior army officers had begun looking into their original decision.

The MoD said the investigation "could take several weeks".

Then in November 2000, the Ministry of Defence confirmed the decision to allow the soldiers to stay in the Army.

Jean McBride:
"These soldiers are still in the Army serving under the Queen's command"
See also:

10 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
Petition to have soldiers discharged
03 Sep 99 | Northern Ireland
Mother wins Scots Guards court battle
15 Nov 99 | Scotland
Scots Guards' case to be re-examined
06 Jul 98 | UK
Review for jailed soldiers
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