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Loyalists turn on ex-British soldier Philip McLernon after child porn conviction

Today, the Sunday World can reveal how loyalists have doubled down on their efforts to force disgraced pervert Philip McLernon to go into hiding, with sinister graffiti being sprayed on walls and bridges warning he will be shot and calling him a “paedo”.

It was also sprayed on a sign at the entrance to Antrim GAA’s centre of excellence at Dunsilly, not far from McLernon’s home.

According to sources, McLernon has been abusive to members of the public who have challenged him following his convictions.

McLernon was handed a suspended prison sentence in March for downloading ‘Category A’ videos of kids being sexually abused.

Now loyalists have turned on their former friend and have been waging a campaign to get McLernon out of his hometown — but without any success.

McLernon stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Antrim loyalists during the 2013 Union flag protests.

Last November — before pervert McLernon had even confessed — he was targeted in what was described as “an elaborate hoax bomb” alert.

It was the second security alert in the area and we can reveal both were aimed at intimidating Philip McLernon out of Antrim.

But, so far, he has refused to leave and remained in his home when the Sunday World confronted him about his crimes.

The 53-year-old had been at the forefront of an ex-veterans’ campaign aimed at the government for prosecuting soldiers for alleged crimes during the Troubles, including murder.

He took part in one event, highlighting how ex-soldiers were living in fear of getting a “knock-on-the-door” from the police and claimed he had been “involved in the intelligence follow-up after the Omagh bomb”.

But ironically it was McLernon who got a knock on the door from the Sunday World just hours after he had pleaded guilty to a string of child ‘porn’ charges six months ago.

A startled McLernon told theSunday 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.”

Since then McLernon narrowly escaped going to jail even though the Judge at Antrim Crown Court found his excuse for looking at the images to be implausible.

McLernon told the court a brain injury, which he sustained during an army training exercise in 2001, still impinges on his cognitive functioning and so he can’t remember looking at the images.

But the judge said there was nothing in the medical evidence that would back up his claims.

Her view was that he had tried to “so far as you are able to, to hide behind the acquired brain injury.”

The judge told McLernon: “What you have done is heinous because these images were produced by someone in the course of abusing children and the reason those children are abused is so that people like you can look at them.”

However, he escaped going to prison and was handed a six-month jail sentence, suspended for four years.

The court was told in March how McLernon’s wife had left him after cops searched his home, seized a number of electronic devices and found 13 images and 11 videos, assessed as Category A, which are of a very explicit nature, and a further 22 images at level B.

We understand McLernon is looking to get out of the Meadow Lands area but had been looking at renting a property in the Greystone estate.

Sources say loyalists connected to the UDA have ramped up efforts to get the ex-soldier to sling his hook.

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“It seems he’s leaving his home in Meadow Lands for whatever reason but a rumour went round he was looking at a property in the Greystone estate,” said the source.

“The UDA have plastered the town in graffiti making it clear he’s not welcome. They’ve targeted loads of estates including The Steeple and Parkhall.

“Apparently they aren’t buying the brain injury story. It had all gone quiet since the hoax bomb alert but they’ve decided to move on him big time now.”

The Sunday World understands police have visited the convicted sex offender to warn him of the threats and discuss his personal safety.

Last November there was significant disruption caused to residents in the town after a hoax bomb was left near McLernon’s home.

Dozens of residents were forced from their homes for several hours after the second security alert in the area within a couple of weeks.

The bomb squad attended and police said that a suspicious object found in the area was declared an ‘elaborate hoax’.

PSNI Inspector Porter explained at the time: “Just before 8.40am it was reported to police that a suspicious object was located in the area.

“The object, which has been declared as an elaborate hoax, has been taken away for further examination.”

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.

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.

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

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

McLernon was also ordered to sign the sex offender’s register for seven years and was also made the subject of a seven-year Sexual Offences Prevention Order.



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