A military view

Lt-Gen Sir

Throughout our investigations we have fought against the belief that Private Clegg was set up, or that there was political interference. Nevertheless there are a number of issues that need explaining.

First, why was there an 11-month delay between the shooting incident in September 1990, and the arrest of the six soldiers - aperiod in which the men in question continued to patrol with loaded rifles? Charges should have been brought immediately if at all. There were irregularities in the trial. Defendants are entitled to see a summary of evidence before trial, but Pte Clegg was never shown one.

The aim of that fateful patrol in September 1990 was to catch and deter joyriders, but Pte Clegg and the other soldiers were never briefed to this effect: they believed that they were after the IRA as usual. No wonder they fired on the speeding car. But this issue was never raised at trial.

Clegg, indeed, fired fewer shots than all the other soldiers: four out of the 19 that hit the car. Two other soldiers even started firing after Clegg had stopped. The judge found Clegg guilty of excessive force and murder on only one shot (alleged to have been fired as the car travelled away from him).

The last appeal was heard before the House of Lords on 9-10 November. We expected a result that night, but there was no judgment until 19 January. Why the delay? What caused it if not political considerations?

Lastly, on the night of the incident, Clegg obeyed to the letter the army's own "yellow card" [which governs rules on opening fire]. But at appeal he was told the yellow card had no legal status, and should be amended (which it duly was). The goalposts were moved.

These were good soldiers who should never have been brought to trial. Pte Clegg is a young paratrooper of the best sort, devoted to his regiment and to his job.

I have seen Pte Clegg in prison. He is philosophical about his condition. His morale is good: he is properly shaved, with highly polished shoes. His one wish is to return to the Paras. He should be released and retained by the army. I hope he's out this week.

The writer, a former Para, is chairman of the Clegg committee

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