Clegg gets £25,000 for lost pay while in jail

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The Independent Online

Corporal Lee Clegg, the paratrooper cleared of shooting two teenaged joyriders in Belfast, has been repaid more than £25,000 for pay he lost during his two years in jail.

Corporal Lee Clegg, the paratrooper cleared of shooting two teenaged joyriders in Belfast, has been repaid more than £25,000 for pay he lost during his two years in jail.

The cash lump sum was handed over to reimburse Cpl Clegg for the pay and pension contributions he lost after being convicted in 1993 of murdering Karen Reilly and wounding Martin Peake. They had driven through an army checkpoint in West Belfast.

Cpl Clegg, then a private, automatically lost his pay of £35 a day and pension rights on conviction. But after an extensive campaign led by former Parachute Regiment commanders, he was released on licence pending an appeal in June 1995, provoking riots across Northern Ireland.

To the fury of nationalists and the victims' relatives, Cpl Clegg was cleared last year by the Court of Appeal of killing Ms Reilly, then 17, but was again found guilty of criminally wounding Mr Peake.

Cpl Clegg again appealed. After a further hearing in November 1999, the paratrooper's conviction for wounding Mr Peake was quashed in January this year, allowing him to resume his army career.

The appeal judges also ruled that testimony from an RUC officer, who said other members of Cpl Clegg's unit broke a colleague's leg to justify their claim he had been hit by the stolen car, was doubtful.

An army spokesman said yesterday that the final Court of Appeal judgment in January meant Cpl Clegg was innocent of any wrongdoing, and was therefore entitled to the full reinstatement of his lost pay, of roughly £25,500, and lost pension contributions.

"He was successful in his appeal and technically has no convictions against him. Therefore, he will receive outstanding salary and pension contributions from when he was in prison," he said.

The decision will anger many nationalists. Cpl Clegg has been twice promoted since his release on licence in 1995, and the two years he spent in jail have also been restored to his army record, speeding up further promotions and his retirement date.

Many Catholics believe the courts are routinely lenient towards the police and army. A spokeswoman for the Social Democratic and Labour Party said: "Our concerns are on record about the operation of the justice system in relation to the Lee Clegg trial and appeals. This was a clear case of double standards being applied to members of the security forces. This is a consequence of that approach and as such is to be criticised."

Cpl Clegg, from Bradford, West Yorkshire, was promoted to corporal in March and earned a pay rise from roughly £17,000 to £19,000 a year. At the time, senior officials said there was little to stop him from being promoted further to sergeant. "He's a very talented soldier," said one officer.

Speaking after the appeal court decision in January, Cpl Clegg said he wanted to draw a line under the case. "The shooting was a tragedy that could have been avoided. Two young people lost their lives needlessly and this fact will remain with me."

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