Injured Afghanistan veteran shown mercy by court

First published in News by

A SOLDIER, depressed after being injured in Afghanistan, tried to kill himself by driving into a tree.

Northallerton Magistrates’ Court heard Corporal James Light, of the Catterick Garrison-based 1st Battalion, Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, struggled with stress after returning from a tour of Helmand province in October 2010.

During the deployment, a number of Light’s comrade were killed by the Taliban.

The court was told that, on May 18 last year, Light, who had an unblemished record after ten years in the Army, decided to commit suicide and drank six pints of beer before driving through Catterick Garrison in his Vauxhall Astra at 10pm.

Sam Rogers, prosecuting, said the 26-year-old alarmed motorists as he drove past traffic lights in Horne Road. One driver was so shocked by his driving that she followed him, before hearing a smashing sound a short time later.

Emergency services were alerted after the wreckage of Light’s car was found by a tree.

Firefighters cut the roof off the car to free the soldier, who was treated at The James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough.

Police found 127 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of Light’s blood. The legal limit is 80.

Light pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and drink-driving and told the court he had been suffering stress, but the incident was “inexcusable”.

However, his commanding officer, Colour Sergeant Harker, said Light was being modest and had struggled since returning from Afghanistan, where he had been injured by enemy action.

The court heard Light had got married since the incident and had bought a house in Merseyside, from where he commuted to Somme Barracks.

After hearing soldiers face being discharged if they received a sentence of 100 hours’ community service or more and that the Army wanted to retain Light, magistrate Julia Svennivig ordered him to complete 60 hours’ unpaid work, take an extended driving test and pay £85 costs.

Since the Vulnerable Veterans and Adult Dependents service was launched at Catterick Garrison in 2010 to help people suffering mental health issues including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress, it has dealt with more than 2,000 patients.

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