Soldiers dismissed after drunken rampage

PROMISING soldiers Lee Harris and David Lewis have been told they have no future in the army after pleading guilty to vandalising five cars on a night-time drunken rampage in Ipswich.

PROMISING soldiers Lee Harris and David Lewis have been told they have no future in the army after pleading guilty to vandalising five cars on a night-time drunken rampage in Ipswich.

Harris, 23, and Lewis, 20, who are both members of 662 Squadron, based at Wattisham Airfield, were both given a one-year conditional discharge by magistrates in Ipswich, who told them that the fact that they had lost their careers over the incidents was sufficient enough punishment.

In what was referred to by magistrates in court as "extraordinary offences", the soldiers embarked on a spree of car attacks, destroying one of the vehicles by setting fire to it and leaving blood stains over three others.

Both men were charged with two counts of arson and six counts of causing criminal damage.

Lewis pleaded guilty only to one charge of arson, while Harris pleaded guilty to four charges of causing criminal damage.

The other charges were withdrawn by the Crown Prosecution Service.

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The court head that Harris and Lewis had been at Harris's girlfriend's house in Ranelagh Road, Ipswich, late at night on Saturday October 13 where they had been drinking.

Ian Pells, prosecuting said that sometime in the early hours of the Sunday, the two soldiers went to the 24-hour Shell service station on Ranelagh Road to buy cigarettes, before damaging the cars.

The first of the five cars to suffer damage was a Toyota Corolla which was parked in the car park of DIY store Glynn Webb. Lewis pleaded guilty to totally destroying the car by setting fire to it and causing damage estimated at £450.

The other four cars were all damaged by Harris.

An Escort parked in the car park of Gala Bingo had both front door handles damaged and one of the back door handles was broken off, causing £78.31 in damage, while a Fiesta, parked in the same car park, had a side window smashed and was left with blood stains on the rear side.

A Rover, parked in the slip road between Glynn Webb and a Mercedes garage sustained a smashed window and was left with blood on a window and a seat. Finally, a Vauxhall Cavalier, which was parked in the Mercedes garage, was broken into and blood traces were left in the front of the car. A fire extinguisher was stolen from the dashboard and the glove compartment was left open.

Mr. Pells said that police were called to the scene at 5.30am to reports of cars being broken into and the two men were arrested.

David Goodin, mitigating for both Lewis and Harris submitted character references from the army which said that both soldiers were considered as having exemplary behaviour.

Harris had been in the army for six years and had a very promising career in which he had served as an acting lance corporal on a tour of Northern Ireland while Lewis had spent almost three years in the army.

Both soldiers had recently been on an exercise on Salisbury Plain and had left to attend court.

The reference added that it had already been decided that the army would not retain their services and both were definitely out of the army.

An MOD spokeswoman explained that the decision was taken by their commanding officer, Lt-Col Stephen Marshall.

In their summing up, magistrates said that the two men were drinking at a private house when they went out and started "behaving like idiots".

They said: "These were extraordinary offences which have destroyed your careers and placed your immediate future in ruins. You caused a lot of serious damage in what were quite intentional but not pre-planned attacks.

"You have been seriously punished already as you were promising young soldiers so we are taking the unusual step this time of dealing with this by a conditional discharge for twelve months".

In addition, Harris must pay £536.37 in compensation while Lewis must pay £450. They will divide £55 in costs between the two of them.