Soldier who refused to serve in Afghanistan loses appeal
By Kim Sengupta, Defence Correspondent,
The Independent, Thursday, 22 April 2010

A soldier who had refused to serve in Afghanistan "for reasons of principle" has lost his appeal against a nine-month jail sentence.

Lance Corporal Joe Glenton's legal team had claimed that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after a deployment to Helmand four years ago and it had been "wrong in principle" to have imposed an immediate custodial sentence on him. Instead, the court was urged either to suspend it or reduce it to allow for his release.

The case had become a cause célèbre for the campaign against the Afghan war, with public rallies being held in support of L/Cpl Glenton from York. Before his court martial, L/Cpl Glenton said Taliban forces and the British Army were simply "grinding each other down".

"I don't believe our cause is just," he said. "I think it's adversely affecting the Afghan people as well as the British Army and their families. I think it has become part of the problem rather than the solution."

The trial had heard that L/Cpl Glenton, of the Royal Logistic Corps, was promoted because of the "exemplary" way he carried out his duties during his previous Afghan tour and that his stance was based on deeply held beliefs rather than an excuse to shirk his duty.

Yesterday the Court of Appeal, sitting in London, 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.

"That is the essential feature of this case. This is not a case of a conscientious objector."

L/Cpl Glenton, who had so far served 75 days of his sentence, had gone absent without leave just before his scheduled second deployment to Helmand. He handed himself in after two years and six days' absence during which time he had travelled to South-east Asia and Australia.