Clegg's battle to clear his name reaches final stage

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PARATROOPER LEE Clegg's lengthy battle to clear his name over the shooting of two teenage joy-riders nine years ago began its final stage at the Northern Ireland High Court yesterday.

Corporal Clegg, who opened fire on a stolen car which raced through an Army checkpoint in the middle of republican west Belfast, was jailed for life in 1993 for the murder of Karen Reilly, 18, a passenger in the car.

The soldier was also given a concurrent four-year term for shooting dead the car's driver, Martin Peake, 17, but was released on licence from Wakefield Prison in July 1995.

After a marathon legal battle heard by 13 judges in turn, Clegg was acquitted of Miss Reilly's murder in March this year. But Mr Justice Kerr, sitting in Belfast, upheld the other conviction for "unlawful wounding" and imposed the original sentence of four years, meaning he walked free from court.

At the sentencing in June, the judge said that discrepancies between testimony given on different dates revealed Clegg had told "deliberate untruths". Opening the appealyesterday, William Clegg QC, for the appellant, said his client's case rested on seven grounds.

First, he told the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland Robert Carswell, sitting with Lord Justice Nichols and Mr Justice Gillen, that Lee Clegg should not have been penalised in his retrial on evidence used to convict him for another offence in his original trial.

Since he was cleared of murder in that retrial, issues of fact originally used to convict him should not have been valid to reconvict him of the attempted wounding charge. William Clegg said it would go against the "double jeopardy" principle whereby someone cannot be tried for the same offence twice.

William Clegg said that the judge in the retrial, Mr Justice Kerr, was wrong to have accused his client of lying about the circumstances in which he opened fire. The fact that he was found not guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice in his original trial should have ensured, under the double jeopardy rule, that Corporal Clegg was not penalised in his retrial.

The appeal, which is expected to last for three or four days, was adjourned until today.