Killer soldier gets nine-year jail term
A court has heard how a depressed British soldier was given back his
personal protection pistol which he used to kill a Catholic man in a
County Tyrone hotel.
Lord Justice McCollum called for an enquiry into the return of the
weapon as he jailed Royal Irish Regiment lance corporal Glen Graham
Stronge for nine years for killing 27-year-old Colin Foy in October
The Belfast Crown Court judge said that if a "rigorous enquiry"
already taking place "there should be such an enquiry to discover
exactly how this was the case".
The court had already heard that "because of his detoriating medical
history" his personal protection weapon was taken from him. However,
the court also heard that Stronge "found it straight forward to request
his gun back," which was returned to him without question.
The shooting highlighted the amount of legally held weapons that are in
unionist hands, an issue that has never been addressed. At present
there are over 100,000 legally held weapons in the hands of unionists.
After shooting Mr Foy in the back of the head and neck as he sat
chatting with friends in the bar of the Four Ways hotel in Fivemiletown
on October 28 2001, Stronge asked shocked patrons did "anyone else
a bit of this," before walking out and taking a taxi to a nearby
station where he gave himself up.
Reports at the time said that in the aftermath of the shooting, the
part-time soldier told the taxi-driver he had, "just shot a Taig".
While Stronge made no comment during his formal interviews as to why he
had killed Mr Foy, the court heard that in an interview with one of his
doctors, he said it was because Mr Foy had disliked the security
forces. Stronge had also been suffering from depression following the
deaths of his two brothers, according to his defence team.
The judge told Stronge that, "there was no justification for the
shooting" for which "he can offer no explanation".
"It is a particularly serious matter when legally held firearms are
used to carry out killings. The reasonable public alarm arising from
this kind of incident must be reflected in the sentence and the grief
and loss top the family of the deceased Mr Foy who was deliberately
killed by a person who did not appear to be deranged," said Lord
ONE RULE FOR SOLDIERS?
But the lenient jail sentence has again focussed attention on the
Six-County judiciary. They had been accused of sectarianism by Sinn
Fein after another Royal Irish Regiment soldier facing firearms charges
was freed on bail.
29-year-old Alister Sproule, whose address was given as
St Lucia Army Barracks, Omagh, was charged with stealing a Ruger pistol
and 14 rounds of ammunition on 13 May. He was also charged with being
possession of the pistol and ammunition between 13 May and 10 June in
suspicious circumstances. He faces a third charge of possessing six
rounds of 9mm ammunition, also in suspicious circumstances, on 23 May.
Sproule was released on his own bail of #500 with a surety of #1,000.
Sinn Fein MP Pat Doherty contrasted the treatment of the member of the
British armed forces to that of Andersonstown nationalist Bill Tierney,
who was refused bail on charges of possession of information, and North
Belfast nationalist John O'Hagan, who has been held in custody for well
over a year with no prospect of a trial on similar charges. O'Hagan has
been refused bail on at least two occasions.