THE British army’s decision to retain the two soldiers convicted of murdering Peter McBride was described as “outrageous” and “racist” in the high court in Belfast yesterday. “The decision is so outrageous in its defiance of logic or accepted moral standards, that no sensible person could have arrived at it,” Seamus Treacy QC said. He was opening a second application for judicial review of the army’s decision last November not to discharge Scots Guardsmen James Fisher and Mark Wright. They were taken back into their regiment in 1998 following their release on licence, after serving six years of a life sentence for murdering Mr McBride (19), who was shot in the back near his home in the New Lodge area of Belfast in 1992. The latest case has again been brought by the victim’s mother, Mrs Jean McBride, and is being heard by Mr Justice Kerr – the same judge who in 1999 quashed an earlier decision allowing the two soldiers to remain in the army. Attacking the unreasonableness of the army’s decision, Mr Treacy said the recruitment criteria for the new Police Service for Northern Ireland debarred anyone convicted of any crime resulting in imprisonment. “It would even stop you from getting a licence to drive a taxi,” he said. Mr Treacy added: “It is also fundamentally discriminatory and racist in character. “It is clear beyond argument that the army treat the loss of Northern Irish lives less seriously than they treat the loss of other lives, or indeed, that they regard it as even less important than other much less serious matters, like possession of drugs, which carry automatic discharge.” Court papers lodged by Mrs McBride’s solicitors, Madden and Finucane, stated that 2,002 soldiers had been discharged from the army in the past 10 years for lesser crimes than murder. The papers said the army’s lack of censure in the case of Fisher and Wright “not only enhances the risk that the guardsmen will murder again, but also affords them the opportunity to do so, by providing them with weapons”. Mr Treacy’s written submissions also referred to the recognition that victims have a legitimate concern and interest in the treatment meted out to those who injured them. In the McBride case, he said, the army’s decision had clearly aggravated the suffering of relatives and the inference must be that the army was indifferent to this. “Every civilised country should regard the sanctity of life as paramount to be protected at all times – and its violation as totally abhorrent,” Mr Treacy said. Mr Ian Burnett QC, for the army, will address the judge today, and it is expected that judgement will be reserved.