Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK: Northern Ireland
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

BBC NI's Julian O'Neill
The final chapter in a long-running saga
 real 28k

Monday, 31 January, 2000, 17:14 GMT
Soldier's relief after shooting verdict

Two teenagers died when the British Army opened fire

Paratrooper Lee Clegg has spoken of his relief at being cleared of the malicious wounding of a teenage joyrider shot dead in west Belfast by a British Army patrol in 1990.

The Appeal Court in Belfast ruled on Monday that "frail evidence" had been used to convict the corporal for attempting to wound 17-year-old Martin Peake.

Lee Clegg: Convictions overturned Lee Clegg: Convictions overturned
Martin Peake died, along with Karen Reilly, 18, when soldiers on the Glen Road in west Belfast shot 18 bullets into the stolen car they were travelling in, in September 1990.

After the verdict Mr Clegg said: "My family and I do not intend to be victorious about the successful outcome. At the end of the day, the Glen Road shooting was a tragedy that could have been avoided.

"Two young people lost their lives needlessly and this fact will remain with me long after the case has been forgotten about."

Lee Clegg was originally given a life sentence for convictions for murdering Karen Reilly and wounding Martin Peake in 1990.

But he was released on licence in 1995 after his supporters mounted a campaign for his early release.

At a retrial in Belfast in March last year Mr Clegg was cleared of the murder of Miss Reilly, but was convicted of attempting to wound Mr Peake and sentenced to four years in jail.

As Clegg had already served four years in prison for the murder conviction before being given early release, he was allowed to go free.

The release in 1995, coupled with the army's decision to allow Clegg to remain in its ranks, as a physical training instructor, prompted severe civil disturbances in north Belfast.

The conviction for wounding 17-year-old Martin Peake, was the last outstanding charge against the 31-year-old corporal.

'Suspect recollection of events'

Quashing his last conviction Lord Chief Justice Sir Robert Carswell said the accuracy and reliability of an RUC constable's recollection of events had been shown to be suspect.

Gerry Adams: Gerry Adams: "Decision was grievous insult"
"In these circumstances we consider that the evidence upon which the conviction has to stand is frail and gives rise to an element of doubt in our minds whether it is being sufficiently clearly proved that the appellant did discharge a shot after the car when it had passed his position," he said.

The court also considered the possibility of evidence being further undermined if the defence had had notice that Lee Clegg might be convicted of the wounding charge on the basis of his having fired such a shot.

"Taking these grounds of appeal together, we are unable to regard the conviction as safe. We must accordingly allow the appeal and quash the appellant's conviction," Lord Chief Justice Carswell said.

However, the judgement referred to "the highly discreditable behaviour" of which some soldiers were "undoubtedly guilty" on the night of the shooting, but said that it could not influence findings of fact which had to be properly based on relevant evidence.

"Finally, sympathy for the families of Karen Reilly and Martin Peake in their tragic loss cannot be allowed to deflect a court from reaching a decision based on the law and the facts proved in evidence," it concluded.

'Grievous insult to families'

Sinn Fein President and west Belfast MP Gerry Adams described the ruling "a grievous insult to the families and the wider nationalist community".

Speaking to reporters at Stormont he said no one had been made responsible for the deaths of the two teenagers.

"Once again the British judicial system has connived in the protection of members of its ground forces from the consequences of their criminal actions.

"Nationalists will not be surprised by this ruling. This morning's decision will reinforce the view of many: that the British criminal justice system and those diplock judges who are an integral part of it must go," he said.

The Pat Finucane Centre in Londonderry which campaigns on human right issues condemned "the complete and absolute failure of the legal system to deliver justice to the families" of the Belfast teenagers, by quashing the conviction.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console

See also:
27 Feb 98 |  UK
Paratrooper's murder conviction quashed
18 Jun 99 |  UK
Clegg free despite jail sentence
12 Mar 99 |  UK
Clegg verdict 'will not affect peace process'
Links to other Northern Ireland stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Northern Ireland stories