Letter: Sentence for joyriding deaths will boost IRA

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Sir: Isn't it about time the British Army laid down its arms and changed to balloons on sticks? The sentencing of Private Lee Clegg of the Parachute Regiment to life imprisonment for killing a joyrider has done nothing to curb the violence in Northern Ireland.

What reassurance does it give to other young soldiers, who will spend a good deal of their Army career fighting terrorism in Northern Ireland, knowing any action they take may result in a long prison term? Is it not true to say that the Army is on a hiding to nothing as terrorists are fully aware that their hands are tied by the politicians? It is time the Government stopped sitting on the fence by praising the security forces on the one hand and treating them like they are the cause of the problem on the other.

Private Clegg faced a situation that demanded immediate action. He decided to hit first at a suspicious vehicle, out of control, driving in a threatening manner and refusing to stop. The car could have been full of terrorists with automatic weapons, which could have led to the death of the soldiers. Clegg's actions were the results of his training, which is paramount when patrolling the streets of Northern Ireland. I wonder how politicians and the law fraternity would react in a similar situation. He did not go out to kill, his actions were intended to preserve the lives of the community. His sentence will only play into the hands of the IRA and give greater impetus to their cause.

Unlike the IRA the security forces are permanently on patrol. The IRA operates on its own terms, using hit- and-run tactics. Private Clegg made a decision which he thought was right, he had no time to waste. Unfortunately, two young lives were lost and that was tragic.

Lee Clegg is not a murderer; he made a mistake, but nothing like the mistake made by those who sentenced him to life imprisonment.

Yours faithfully,


Southport, Merseyside

8 June

The writer is an ex-Warrant Officer Class 1, Airborne Force.