The father of soldier James Piotrowski, jailed for handling a stolen rifle, last night called for better psychological care for servicemen returning from Iraq.

Mr Piotrowski claimed his son, who was last week jailed for seven years at a court martial in Essex, had been driven to breaking point by post traumatic stress disorder.

Mr Piotrowski said the Army was creating dangerous "timebombs" out of young soldiers who had witnessed disturbing events on the front line - but were offered no health aftercare on their return.

Lance Corporal James Piotrowski (22) from Northfield, who is currently imprisoned at HMP Chelmsford, sparked a huge police manhunt when he vanished from the Irish Guards regimental barracks in Wellington, London, in November 2004, with an SA-80 rifle.

Later the soldier disappeared three times while awaiting trial.

Last night his father, a builder now living in Market Drayton in Shropshire, dismissed a psychiatric diagnosis presented to the court claiming his son had a personality disorder rather than PTSD.

"If my son has a dangerous personality disorder, what was he doing guarding the Queen and working around Northern Ireland?," he asked. "Is the British Army in the habit of taking on pyschotic people and giving them positions of responsibility?"

In Iraq, James's job was to 'mop up' after airstrikes had taken place on enemy settlements. During his tour in 2003 he saw a colleague shot dead by a sniper and he killed several Iraqis himself.

"As a front line infantry soldier who had to kill and witness his friends and civilians being killed, that affects you," said Mr Piotrowski.

"He more than fulfilled his side of the contract, but when he needed help the attitude of the army was 'stop being a whingeing pussy and get on with the job'."

Mr Piotrowski said the army had been 'negligent' in its treatment of his son and other veterans. Expecting young men and women to seamlessly adapt to a normal lifestyle directly after involvement in wartime conflict, he said, was unreasonable.

Young men like his son, with "obvious signs of PTSD", could easily get involved in some sort of crime, he said, and it was something that the recent court martial had failed to take into account. He said that the leaders of the Allied forces in Iraq - particularly the British - were "not comfortable" with the issue of PTSD.

"Young men like my son are screwed up mentally," he said. "When needed, he served his Queen and country with honour, bravery and pride, and yet when it comes to the aftercare of his health, where was his 'adopted family', the Army, to look after him?

"I no longer have a proud young soldier as a son, but a criminal."

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence said: "Each serviceman and servicewoman has the full support of the welfare and medical services provided by the Army. We are not able to comment on individual cases due to reasons of medical confidentiality."