Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

SAS sniper wins conviction appeal

Sally and Danny Nightingale leave the High Court in London

An SAS sniper has thanked the public after the Court of Appeal ruled that he had been unfairly convicted of illegally possessing a pistol and ammunition and ordered a new trial.

Sergeant Danny Nightingale, who argued that he had been put under "improper pressure" to enter guilty pleas at a military trial last year, said appeal judges had been right to quash convictions.

But his wife Sally said she was "saddened" that a re-trial had been ordered and disappointed their ordeal was not over. The couple - both 38 and from Crewe, Cheshire - hugged following a day-long Court of Appeal hearing in London.

Sgt Nightingale said he would plead "not guilty" at the new trial and "attack" with "vigorous tenacity" the allegations against him. He said he was "frustrated" not to be working but said the Ministry of Defence would decide whether he could return to duty pending the re-trial.

Appeal judges ruled the judge at Sgt Nightingale's court martial in November had given an "uninvited sentence indication" and "improperly narrowed" the soldier's "freedom of choice" to enter a plea. They declared Sgt Nightingale's guilty pleas "nullified" and said a fresh court martial should be held.

Sgt Nightingale had been sentenced to 18 months' military detention in early November 2012 - after admitting illegally possessing a Glock 9mm pistol and more than 300 rounds of ammunition.

The Court of Appeal concluded in late November that the sentence was too harsh. Three appeal judges cut the term to 12 months, said it should be suspended, and ordered Sgt Nightingale's release. Appeal judges had delayed a hearing about the safety of convictions.

"Without help from family, from the legal team, we would not be where we are. More so from the press, the public," said Sergeant Nightingale after the appeal hearing.

"I do believe it was the right decision today."

Mrs Nightingale said she had mixed emotions. "I'm relieved that the convictions have been quashed," she said. "It's still not over. That would have been our ultimate goal."

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