Another View: Don't let Clegg go free

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As the family of Karen Reilly, Private Lee Clegg's victim, we feel it is very premature for the Life Sentence Review Board to be sitting. Private Clegg was sentenced to life in 1993, having already served one year. Normally the board won't consider a case until 10 years into the sentence. They changed the rules for Pte Clegg and we feel it is totally unfair.

The campaign to release Pte Clegg has run since he was sentenced to life, and took off in January this year when the Lords rejected his second appeal. Campaigners skilfully used the media to build Pte Clegg up as a hero and to present my daughter as a thug and persistent car thief; even alleging that she had close paramilitary connections. This was done by reporting that in 1976 - when Karen was three years old - her natural father, an alleged member of the IRA, was shot dead by soldiers. As her stepfather I totally reject the suggestion that Karen had any politics at all, let alone any links with paramilitary groups.

Campaigners for Pte Clegg present him as a model soldier, only doing his duty: out on patrol in a strong republican area on a road used regularly by the IRA - a false impression which has gained him a lot of support. The road where Karen died has never been used by terrorists. I can't remember anyone other than joyriders using it at night. Army and RUC officers are well aware of this - one of the officers said: "Lenadoon sounded like Brands Hatch that night."

Pte Clegg's campaign alleges that the first he knew about joyriders on the road that night was a couple of days after the event. But it has been proved that the commanding officer made a radio call showing they were well aware of joyriders that night. They claim they can prove that the bullet which killed Karen never entered the back of the car. This also can be refuted. During the initial trial ballistics experts proved beyond doubt that the bullet came through the back of the car and was traced back to Pte Clegg's rifle. Yesterday the state pathologist for Northern Ireland stood by the original evidence at the trial, and rejected tests carried out by Pte Clegg's campaigners.

The campaign to free Pte Clegg blatantly ignores three crucial facts that emerged during the trial. First, the evidence of the RUC officer on patrol with the group of soldiers that night, who testified that none of them was in any danger of being hit by the car. Second, a blatant cover- up of evidence by members of the patrol. Third, far from showing remorse, patrol members put up a sick mural at their barracks with the caption: "Built by robots, driven by joyriders, stopped by A Company."

We, Karen Reilly's family, thought in June 1993 that we had received justice. It appears now that Pte Clegg could be released after only two years in prison. If he is it will make a mockery of the judicial system, completely ignoring three trials.

The writer is the stepfather of Karen Reilly, who was killed by Private Lee Clegg.