Nine months sentence confirmed on appeal
On 21st April about 30 women and men took part in a picket in front of the Royal Courts of JusticeThe picket was called by the Stop the War Coalition. BBC Arabic Services and BBC Persian Services and Iranian TV covered the event and interviewed demonstrators. in London to support Joe Glenton who was appealing his nine-month sentence.
Before the trial, there was an international campaign asking people to press the Ministry of Defence to drop the charges and stop the harassment that Joe had been subjected to in prison because he dared to make public his refusal to serve in Afghanistan. Over 70 letters from a dozen countries were sent within a few days. This organised public pressure seems to have stopped the mistreatment so far, but we must remain vigilant.
Payday learnt that Joe is well liked inside prison. When he receives letters, the guards have to open them in front of him and then the other prisoners are keen to see the letters. While going to the court for the hearing, one policeman said loudly to Clare, Joe’s wife and Anne, Clare’s mother: “This boy makes us proud.”
The trial was delayed until the afternoon, and some supporters had the chance to spend time with the Glenton family and John Tipple, Joe’s legal case worker. Although Joe was accompanied by two soldiers in uniform, he looked relaxed.
The hearing started at about 2.30 pm, with about 20 people in the public gallery. 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. He went absent without leave (AWOL) in 2007 – refusing to return to Afghanistan. He 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 5th March, was sentenced to nine months and was demoted to private. He didn’t appeal the demotion.
The main point of the appeal was the weight given to his illness by the Court Martial. Joe 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. He suffers from sleeplessness and nightmares. 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 to suspend or reduce the sentence to enable his immediate release. His barrister said that Joe Glenton had opposed the war as a result of his experiences in Afghanistan. He was bullied by a sergeant when he raised his doubts, and when he went to his commanding officer, the bullying got worse.
But Lord Judge said the "crucial matter . . . was the impact of the absence of the individual member of service personnel on the operational effectiveness of the unit." Outrageously, 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."
As for PTSD, although acknowledging that the Court of Appeal is no expert, the judge said “Many soldiers suffer bad experiences, but do their duty. Joe Glenton does not." John Tipple said: "To hear the court re-diagnose Joe's condition was absolutely sickening." The judge added that the Court Martial was a better judge than the Appeal Court and this was 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 had already served at the date of the appeal. His expected date of release is August 2nd, but if there was full remission for good behaviour the date could be brought down to July 12th.
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."
WRITE TO JOE GLENTON TO SHOW YOUR SUPPORT
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