Republican News · Thursday 26 October 2000

[An Phoblacht]

1,510 Soldiers discharged for drugs but not for murder.

1510 soldiers have been dismissed from the British Army for failing random drug tests since 1995, the same year as Scots Guards Wright and Fisher were convicted of the murder of Belfast teenager Peter McBride. The two guardsmen are still serving in the British Army. The figures, revealed in a reply to a parliamentary question put to Defence Secretary John Spellar by Kevin McNamara MP, have angered those campaigning for the dismissal of the two guardsmen.

The Pat Finucane Centre has expressed outrage at the contrast in treatment by the British Army of those convicted of murder in a court of law, and those who fail random drugs tests. ``This is a completely ludicrous situation'' said a spokesperson for the Derry based centre ``What we have here is the British Army effectively telling us that it is a more serious crime to smoke a joint than to murder an innocent Irish teenager. The failure of the army to dismiss two men found guilty of murder in a court of law while discharging over 1,500 soldiers who never even appeared in court is mind boggling.''

``The implication is that Wright and Fisher would have been discharged had they committed murder after taking drugs, not because they had committed murder but because they tested positive for drugs.

John Spellar, Secretary of State for Defence, in his reply to the question tabled by Kevin McNamara said ``The [armed] Services regard drug taking as a matter of the utmost seriousness and a positive test will, in most cases, lead to an administrative discharge from the Service.''

In September 1999, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) was ordered by a Belfast court to reconsider an Army Board decision to allow Wright and Fisher to remain in the British Army despite the murder convictions. To date the MOD has failed to make a decision.

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