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EXPOSED: Soldier who campaigned against prosecutions for British veterans convicted over indecent child images

Creepy protester Philip McLernon from Antrim was found with vile pics and videos of children

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Phil McLernon peeks from behind his front door this week

Phil McLernon peeks from behind his front door this week

Phil McLernon peeks from behind his front door this week

A top soldier who campaigned against "witch-hunt" Troubles prosecutions for veterans has been convicted of having indecent images and videos of kids.

Philip McLernon from Antrim was at the forefront of an ex-veteran's campaign aimed at the government for prosecuting soldiers for alleged crimes during the Troubles, including murder.

He also boasted about being "involved in the intelligence follow-up after the Omagh bomb".

He took part in one event highlighting how ex-soldiers were living in fear of getting a "knock-on-the-door" from the police.

But this week it was the 52-year-old getting a knock on the door from the Sunday World just hours after he had pleaded guilty to a string of 'child pornography' charges.

McLernon was among a group of the retired soldiers, police officers and Prison Service personnel who set up Northern Ireland Crown Forces Veterans for Justice (NICFVFJ) five years ago.

The group says hundreds of other ex-soldiers are "dreading the knock on the door" that would tell them they too are under investigation over killings that happened 40-plus years ago - including Bloody Sunday.

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Campaigner Phil McLernon wearing a veterans hoodie

Campaigner Phil McLernon wearing a veterans hoodie

Campaigner Phil McLernon wearing a veterans hoodie

They held rallies at Belfast City Hall to protest at how it feels veterans have been treated by the judicial system, in which it says it has little confidence.

Originally from Bushmills, McLernon served with the Royal Irish and the Royal Engineers and has previously claimed the media have been soft on republicans and believes that justice has been sacrificed by successive governments.

But he admitted at another event that if any soldier has broken the law they should "absolutely face the consequences".

And that's something he's now facing himself.

The shaven-headed sleaze was told this week by a judge at Antrim Crown Court he must sign the sex offenders register immediately as he awaits sentencing for his sickening crimes next month.

He had been facing 15 charges including distributing indecent images of kids and possessing extreme pornographic images of children.

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Defence counsel Michael Tierney asked for four of the 15 charges to be put to McLernon again.

He entered guilty pleas to three counts of making indecent images of children and one charge of possessing indecent images of children on dates between December 23 2010 and October 2 2015.

Following McLernon's confessions, prosecuting counsel Mark Farrell asked for the remaining charges to be "left on the books", including an allegation the creep had distributed or shared the sickening images.

On Thursday a startled McLernon told the Sunday World he had nothing to say about his shameful convictions.

"I'm not going to comment on that," he said while poking his head out from his front door.

When asked about his work with a number of Army veterans groups, he confirmed he had previously been involved but added: "I've nothing to say about it."

Freeing McLernon on bail, Judge Patricia Smyth ordered the pervert to sign the police sex offenders register and, ordering a pre-sentence probation report to be completed, adjourned passing sentence until February 15.

In May 2017 McLernon was prominent in a veterans protest outside the offices of the Public Prosecution Service in Belfast where he challenged republicans to put themselves at the full mercy of the law or else stop demanding the same from ex-security personnel.

McLernon had been handing out leaflets to passers-by while wearing a Royal British Legion top.

The leaflets said that ex-soldiers had tolerated "hate", "threats", "risks", and the loss of their comrades - but would not tolerate a "witch-hunt".

During the event, McLernon told the News Letter: "We see people like [IRA bomber-turned-MLA] Gerry Kelly calling for justice, calling for equality, et cetera et cetera - all the while with a pardon from Her Majesty the Queen tucked in his back pocket.

"What we would say is if you've broken the law, absolutely you should face the consequences.

"But what we can't have is the imbalance of republicans with on-the-run letters, with royal pardons, calling for the same thing... they can't have their cake and eat it, and the playing field ultimately has got to be levelled."

According to the paper, McLernon then gestures to the courthouse behind him and says republicans should "hand in their royal prerogatives, hand in their on-the-run letters and take their chances in places like this, where everybody else has to take their chances and face the law".

The demonstrators were angered in particular by the prosecution of Dennis Hutchings, a then 76-year-old ex-soldier from Cornwall who was facing an attempted murder charge in relation to a 1974 killing.

The trial collapsed after Mr Hutchings died last October.

In December 2017 McLernon was back fronting another ex-services protest against so-called "witch-hunts".

He was quoted as saying: "I was involved in the intelligence follow-up after the Omagh bomb. Will those families ever see justice? I very much doubt it."

His group pledged to oppose any political deal that would propose an amnesty for terrorists in Northern Ireland.

steven.moore@sundayworld.com

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