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BBC NI's Barry Cowan talks to Phil Gallie, MSP
The soldiers are being 'persecuted'
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David Porter reports
"Controversy still surrounds the death of Peter McBride"
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Monday, 10 April, 2000, 16:49 GMT 17:49 UK
Petition to have soldiers discharged
James Fisher (left) and Mark Wright: Reinstated in the Army
James Fisher (left) and Mark Wright: Reinstated in the Army
Relatives of a Belfast teenager murdered by two Scots Guards in 1992 have called on the UK prime minister to ensure his killers are discharged from the army.

Guardsmen Mark Wright and James Fisher each served six years of a life sentence for the murder of 18-year-old Peter McBride.

Mr McBride was shot after being stopped and searched by the soldiers while they were on patrol near his home in the New Lodge area of north Belfast on 4 September, 1992.

A British Army review board reinstated the guardsmen and they were permitted to resume their careers in their regiment, following their release from prison on licence in 1998.

However, Mr McBride's mother won a Northern Ireland High Court case last September last year overturning that decision.

The case is set to be reconsidered by a reconvened army board next week.

Peter McBride was shot in the back
Peter McBride was shot in the back
The family's solicitor Angela Ritchie said that they will take the case to the European Court of Human Rights if the two men are not dismissed.

Mr McBride's father, also called Peter, handed in a letter to 10 Downing Street on Monday calling for justice in the fresh hearing.

He said: "It is deeply hurtful and insulting that we should have to plead for justice for our son and family.

"No democratic society should even consider employing convicted murderers in the armed forces.

"To allow them to remain makes it impossible for our family to find closure on our loss."

During their trial in 1995, Fisher, then 24, from Ayrshire and Wright, then 19, from Arbroath claimed that they thought Mr McBride was carrying a coffee jar bomb when they stopped him.

They shot him twice in the back as he ran away from their patrol. However, no weapon was found after the shooting.

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

The scene of the shooting in north Belfast
The scene of the shooting in north Belfast
But last September, Mr Justice Kerr ruled that this decision was incompatible with the findings of trial judge Lord Justice Kelly.

The trial judge had said that the soldiers had not had to make a split-second decision on whether to fire and that there was "no reasonable possibility" that they had genuinely believed Mr McBride had a bomb.

The court ruled that a new army board would have to consider whether the men should remain in the army.

Mr McBride said the family were not seeking a return to jail for the two soldiers.

"From the beginning, we didn't expect them to spend much time in jail. All we want now is for them to be dismissed from the British Army."

Military regiment

Paul O'Connor from the Pat Finucane Centre, which is representing the family, said they intended to send a message to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair that his government had a "responsibility to the McBride family".

"They have a responsibility to send out a very clear message that they accept the original verdict of the court of law in Belfast. The two men were convicted of murder.

Paul O'Connor
Paul O'Connor: Government have "responsibility" to family
"It's our view that they they have sought to undermine, minimise and reinterpret that verdict ever since the judge gave judgement back in 1995".

He said the McBride family felt it was wrong for someone who was convicted of murder to be allowed to rejoin his military regiment.

"That is sending a message to the family that the government don't really accept the seriousness of the offence," he said.

Left-wing Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn said it was "unbelievable" that the army would "allow these convicted killers to remain in its ranks".

Soldiers 'persecuted'

Member of the Scottish Parliament Phil Gallie, whose constituents include James Fisher, said the petition was a disgrace.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster, he said the move would only serve to exacerbate the current political unrest.

Mr Gallie said there should be "a parallel spirit of forgiveness".

"They paid a terrible price, they served over six years for what was nothing other than a mistake.

"Now they're being persecuted, while hard-line killers, who deliberately went out to murder in Northern Ireland, are being released from prison.

"I think it's absolutely criminal that they're being hounded in this way."

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03 Sep 99 | Northern Ireland
Mother wins Scots Guards court battle
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