Commons warned against Clegg release : The Clegg affair : The Irish pea ce crisis

A blunt warning against further alienating the nationalist community in Ulster by the staged release of Lee Clegg, the paratrooper convicted of murder, was given to the Commons yesterday by the West Belfast MP, Joe Hendron, writes Stephen Goodwin.

Speaking as Tory backbenchers stepped up their campaign on behalf of Clegg, jailed for killing a teenage joyrider at a roadblock, the SDLP member decried the attitude that "our boys" in the front line could do no wrong.

"If Pte Clegg is set free as a political gesture to that campaign then a new set of rules will have been established - one for soldiers and one for citizens in Northern Ireland," Dr Hendron said. He supported "generosity'' towards prisoners but it shouldbe shown "across the board, to both communities in Northern Ireland''.

Nicholas Soames, Minister of State for the Armed Forces, was guarded on the fate of Clegg and rejected claims that soldiers were now uncertain about when they could open fire. "It is impressed on all servicemen that in all situations which they may face they are to use the minimum of force and firearms may only be used as a last resort."

The yellow card carried by all soldiers in Northern Ireland summarised the detailed guidance on the law of the UK they were given in training, he said. But Mr Soames said it was right to acknowledge the "split second judgements" that had to be made in countering "wicked terrorism".

Clegg was sentenced in May 1993 for the 1990 shooting of a joyriding passenger, Karen Reilly, 18, at a Belfast roadblock. The Law Lords dismissed his appeal last month.

Sir Patrick Mayhew, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, is to examine any fresh evidence casting doubt on the conviction and Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, is reviewing the law governing the use of lethal force by police and security forces.

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