Northern Ireland: McBride third judicial review

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5 December 2003 update: High Court Grants Leave for Full Judicial Review

In the Belfast High Court today, Friday 5 December, Justice Weir granted leave for a full judicial review in the matter of the Ministry of Defence's decision to continue to retain the soldiers who murdered Peter McBride in the British Army. This is the third time that lawyers acting for Peter's mother, Jean McBride, have brought the issue before the High Court in judicial review proceedings.

In court today was Peter's sister, Kelly McBride, who recently stood as a candidate in the London Brent East by-election and Robert Evans, a sitting Labour Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and defeated Labour candidate in the by-election, who flew to Belfast today to meet the McBride family.

UK: Kelly McBride standing in London by election

8 September update

Kelly McBride, the sister of Peter McBride, is standing as an independent candidate in a parliamentary by election in Brent East in northeast London. The young mother from North Belfast lodged her nomination papers at Brent Town Hall last week, saying that while she did not realistically expect to win the election she hoped to win justice for her family (see below). A spokesman for the Justice for Peter McBride Campaign said:

"This constituency, which includes Kilburn, has the largest Irish vote in Britain. By coming to London, where the decisions that have so affected Kelly's family have been made, we intend to give the electorate here the chance to voice their feelings on this issue. The McBride family already have the support of most political parties in Ireland, north and south, the Irish government, Amnesty International and other human rights groups. By standing here they hope to get the support of the people of Brent East, people who can see that employing and re-arming two convicted murderers is simply wrong."

More information:
Justice for Peter McBride Campaign on +44(0)7966-703-137; Brent Council election website: link

Northern Ireland: Human Rights minister under fire over murdered teenager

Protestors today (19 August 2003) disrupted the launch of a new transport system in Belfast, which was being hosted by John Spellar MP, the Northern Ireland Office Minister for Human Rights, Equality and Criminal Justice. The minister was targeted after sitting on the Army Board that decided that the two Scots Guards convicted of the murder of north Belfast teenager Peter McBride should be allowed to remain in the army (see below). Members of the Pat Finucane Centre held up banners demanding justice for Peter McBride as Spellar attempted to launch a new Global Positioning System for Belfast buses. Speaking afterwards, PFC spokesperson Shane O'Curry said:

"If this man thinks he can walk in here and tackle issues of human rights, equality and criminal justice while ignoring the abuse of those issues that he has been involved in, then he needs a global positioning system of his own. This man is not suitable to hold any such office, and should be removed immediately."

The murder of Peter McBride

On 4 September 1992, 18 year old Peter McBride was shot dead after running away from a patrol of the Scots Guards, a British Army Regiment on foot patrol in the New Lodge area of Belfast. Two years later his killers, Guardsmen Fisher and Wright, were sentenced to life imprisonment for his murder. The judge stated:

"I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that there is no reasonable possibility that Guardsman Fisher held or may have held an honest belief that the deceased carried or may have carried a coffee jar bomb" [as the two had claimed].

Following a campaign spearheaded by the Daily Mail newspaper that argued that the two were guilty only of a "tragic error of judgement", Fisher and Wright were granted early release on the 2 September 1998 - just prior to the sixth anniversary of Peter's death. The decision was taken by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, then Dr. Mo Mowlam, despite her earlier promises to the McBride family that the two would not be among the first wave of prisoners released under the prisoner release scheme in the Good Friday agreement. Wright and Fisher were in fact released at the Secretary of State's discretion, not under the Good Friday agreement.

Although they had received life sentences for murder, the two had not been dismissed from the army and rejoined the Scots Guards in November 1998, following an Army Board decision that they could continue their careers in the services under an "exceptional circumstances" clause. They are now serving in the occupying UK-US forces in Basra, Iraq.

Army ignores Appeal Court ruling

On 13 June 2003, almost five years after the army decided to retain the services of Fisher and Wright - and after tireless campaigning by Peter's mother Jean and her supporters - the Court of Appeal in Belfast ruled that the reasons given by the army board for the retention of Fisher and Wright did not constitute the "exceptional reasons" required by the Queen's regulations covering soldiers who receive custodial sentences. The Court stated that, while it did not have the authority to order the Ministry of Defence to accept its ruling, it expected the MoD to take full note of it. Two months later, the Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram MP announced that:

"there are no plans for the [Army] Board to further review their [Wright &Fisher] employment status."

In the letter from the minister, it also emerged that one of the convicted men, James Fisher, has been promoted to Lance Corporal. Jean McBride reacted with total disbelief:

"Ingram has now rubber stamped Spellar's original decision which is nothing other than the State sanctioning the murder of Peter. Now they have damned cheek to reward the murderers by keeping them in the Army and, just to rub our noses in it, they have promoted one of them. Ingram and Spellar might as well have gone to Peter's grave and spat on it. They have shown contempt for our feelings and the outrage shared right across the community. Now its official-this government does not accept that Peter was murdered when he was shot in the back and shot again as he tried to crawl away. I have one message for this government, we are not going away. I will fight to have Wright and Fisher dismissed while I still have a breath in my body."

Protests dog Spellar

Since the Ministry of Defence's decision, John Spellar, the Northern Ireland Office Minister for "Human Rights, Equality and Criminal Justice", has faced growing pressure. Yesterday (18 August 2003), the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Martin Morgan (SDLP), announced that the minister would not be welcome at events organised by the mayoral office. Morgan also pledged to "turn on his heel" and leave any Belfast City Council events organised by non-mayoral departments if Mr Spellar is in attendance. Later, the Mayor of Derry, Shaun Gallacher, announced on BBC Radio Foyle that he would follow the example set by his SDLP counterpart in Belfast by boycotting Spellar's office and that he had sent a formal letter of protest regarding the McBride case.

For more information and background on the McBride case, see the Pat Finucane Centre website: PFC

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