Law and order pays dividends

Republican activist, Eddie Copeland, was shot twice by Trooper Andrew Clarke who opened fire on unarmed mourners

EVEN TORY MP Julian Critchley condemned the lenient treatment meted out to four Aldershot-based paratroopers last week. They were convicted of ‘unlawfully wounding’ a local man after a drunken night out, leaving him crippled after a vicious attack. The judge considered it sufficient to order them to pay paltry compensation to their victim and perform ‘community service’ in their spare time.

The additional military sentence of a formal warning and reduction in rank compounded the anger of local residents, who are continually being terrorised by mobs of drunken soldiers in the town centre. Critchley complains they are a source of constant trouble to his Aldershot constituents, “much more than other elite units”.

This is no accident. The paras regard themselves as a race apart. Their elite training aims consciously to brutalise them, as Irish workers have found to they cost time and time again. Their terrorism is state policy, to be used when ‘normal’ military methods fail to cow a rebellious population into submission. Unprovoked attacks on civilians are regarded by the establishment as an unfortunate by-product of this policy.

In contrast to the leniency afforded to the paras, last week also saw lengthy sentences passed on three soldiers for murderous attacks in Belfast. Trooper Andrew Clarke received ten years for firing 20 shots into a crowd of mourners at a funeral for an IRA fighter. The soldier had spotted among them republican activist Eddie Copeland, whose photograph the patrol had just been shown. “I shot the bastard,” Clarke said as he attempted to reload to continue his assault. Fortunately nobody was killed.

Less fortunate was 18-year old Peter McBride who died after being shot twice in the back by two members of an army patrol. He had run away after being “thoroughly searched” and found not to be carrying any weapon. The two soldiers were sentenced to life imprisonment for murder.

Such attacks have over the past 25 years been routinely covered up by the military. But in today’s circumstances - where the release of republican prisoners will, at some stage in the ‘peace process’, have to occur - it is perhaps useful for the state to incarcerate some of its own soldiers in order that any amnesty should not appear too one-sided.

The government has indicated that it has no intention, however, of repealing the Prevention of Terrorism Act, despite the likely settlement in Ireland. Although up to now it has been used almost exclusively against the Irish, the Home Office now wants to keep it in place for use against ‘international sources of terrorism’. The PTA’s draconian powers have proved far too valuable to relinquish.

At the same time as the use of these powers - together with brutalising training methods - are deemed essential, the forces’ top brass continue to live their luxurious life styles. But poor old Air Chief Marshall Sir Sandy Wilson has had to resign after going just that little bit too far. He spent £380,000 on refurbishing his official residence at state expense, including £33,000 on curtains alone.

No doubt a lump sum of £150,000 plus an annual pension of £50,000 will go some way to console him.

Alan Fox