United Kingdom: Nine Months Sentence Confirmed on Appeal
Comprehensive Report about the Hearing
(02.05.2010) On 21 April about 30 women and men took part in a picket (called by the Stop the War Coalition) in front of the Royal Courts in London to support Joe Glenton who was appealing his nine-month sentence. Payday distributed a leaflet. Covering the event were: BBC Arabic & Persian services and Iranian TV which interviewed the demonstrators.
Before the trial, there was an international campaign asking that people press the Ministry of Defence to drop the charges. Over 70 letters from a dozen countries were sent within a few days.
The trial was delayed to the afternoon, so some supporters had the chance to spend some hours with the Glenton family and John Tipple, Joe’s legal case worker, in the High Court cafeteria. Joe was accompanied by two soldiers in uniform, (the same men who escorted him to prison on 5 March and who appear in the BBC Persian Service video) and looked relaxed.
Payday learnt that Joe is very well liked inside the prison. When he receives letters, the guards have to open them in front of him and then the other prisoners are keen to see them.
Joe had been subjected to harassment by the prison authorities lately. Organised public pressure seems to have stopped this.
While going to the court for the hearing, one policeman said very loud to Clare, Joe’s wife and Anne, Clare’s mother: “This boy makes us proud.”
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The hearing started at about 2.30 pm, with about 20 people in the public gallery. Opening, Joe’s case was summed up by his barrister, Nick Wrack.
He said that Joe Glenton, 27, joined the army in 2004 and performed a seven-month tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2006. He was promoted to lance corporal because of the “exemplary" way he had carried out his duties during that operation. He went absent without leave (AWOL) in 2007 after being told he was to return to Afghanistan earlier than the normal 18 months after his previous tour. He booked a flight to Bangkok in June 2007 and got married in Australia while he was AWOL. He was absent for 737 days before turning himself in.
He pleaded guilty to the AWOL charge on 5 March, was sentenced to nine month and was demoted to private. He didn’t appeal the demotion.
Joe, who has so far served 75 days of his sentence, suffered sleeplessness and nightmares and was diagnosed as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after his first stint in the war zone, a diagnosis the Court Martial did not dispute.
The main point of the appeal was the weight given to his illness by the Court Martial. The barrister argued that the impact of PTSD on Joe had not been sufficiently addressed.
His barrister said that because of a diagnosis of PTSD it had been wrong in principle to have imposed an immediate custodial sentence. The court was urged either to suspend or reduce the sentence to enable his immediate release.
His barrister said that Joe Glenton had begun to oppose the war as a result of his experiences in Afghanistan and was bullied by a sergeant when he raised his doubts. When he went to his commanding officer, the bullying got worse.
But the judges ruled that his sentence was neither excessive nor wrong in principle.
Announcing the decision, Lord Judge said the "crucial matter in this sentencing decision was the impact of the absence of the individual member of service personnel on the operational effectiveness of the unit."
He went on: "The individual who goes absent without leave and so deliberately avoids his duties -- when his duty is to be posted to a theatre of war -- is not only letting down his comrades-in-arms and undermining their morale generally, his conduct exposes another serviceman or woman sent to replace him to the risks that he is avoiding."
If not replaced, numbers were depleted and exposed those in theatres of war to "even greater risks than those they would be facing anyway".
The judge said that the allegedly bullying sergeant was not there to testify and added: "There is no credible evidence that Joe Glenton’s decision to go AWOL was caused by the voice of his conscience or concern about the morality or legality of the operations in Afghanistan. This is not a case of a conscientious objector. If it was, we would be open to discussing it today."
As for PTSD, although acknowledging that the Court of Appeal is no expert, the judge said “in the present case, without diminishing the unpleasantness of the appellant’s experiences in Afghanistan, we have studied the reports closely and they do not convey to us that the post traumatic stress disorder which he suffered was at the most extreme level. Many soldiers suffer bad experiences, but do their duty. Joe Glenton does not."
The nine-month sentence came from the Court Martial, the judge added, a specialist criminal court, and therefore a better judge than the Appeal Court. Of course this does not mean that the Appeal Court would always agree with the Court Martial, but this is not a sentence with which it should interfere.
Since he pleaded guilty to going AWOL, Joe Glenton’s sentence is automatically reduced by 1/3, so he will serve six months minus the 75 days he already served. His expected date of release is August 2, but if there was full remission for good behaviour the date could be brought down to July 12.
The Army has decided to discharge Glenton when he has finished his sentence of military detention.
Clare Glenton told BBC News her husband was "disappointed but not surprised" he lost his appeal.
She said: "He’s just now looking forward to being released over the summer and getting on with his life.
"He’s actually been accepted into Leeds Metropolitan to study global development and peace studies, so he’s got a very bright future to look forward to as of September.
"He’s extremely excited to get stuck into that and get on with his life."
Please visit Payday’s website www.refusingtokill.net for further news and developments on Joe Glenton’s case. It is important to let Joe Glenton know that people have not forgotten him. The postcard campaign organised by Connection e.V. continues.
Payday: Report on Joe Glenton’s appeal, 21 April 2010. eMail, 2 May 2010.