Belfast Telegraph

Marine jailed for killing injured insurgent to learn fate of appeal next week

By Cathy Gordon

A Royal Marine described as the "last casualty of a failed war" should be freed as an act of "exceptional mercy" from his prison sentence for killing an injured Taliban fighter in Afghanistan, appeal judges have been told.

The plea on behalf of Sergeant Alexander Blackman (42), from Taunton in Somerset, was made on his behalf at a sentencing hearing yesterday when supporters, including injured veterans and high-ranking retired officers, packed a London courtroom.

Blackman will learn his fate at the Court Martial Appeal Court next week when a panel of five judges, headed by Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, will announce what sentence is to be imposed following the reduction of his murder conviction to diminished responsibility manslaughter.

The judges heard moving mitigation on his behalf, including evidence from his wife Claire, before announcing that they had decided to give their ruling on Tuesday.

Afterwards, Mrs Blackman said: "We are obviously disappointed not to have a decision today, but we understand that the judges wish to consider this important matter with great care. We will patiently await their ruling."

Earlier, her husband watched proceedings via videolink from prison as his QC, Jonathan Goldberg, told the court that the main submission was a "plea" for his immediate release.

He said the "incarceration of almost three-and-a-half years which he has already served is already too much for his crime".

Mr Goldberg described the 2011 killing, which happened when Blackman was serving in Helmand province with Plymouth-based 42 Commando, as a "single blot on an otherwise exemplary career".

He was "truly the last casualty of a failed war", said Mr Goldberg, posing the question: "What good will it do to keep him - the last casualty - in prison?"

The judges had previously ruled that Blackman was suffering from an "abnormality of mental functioning" at the time of the incident.

When the court overturned the murder conviction, the judges found that the incident was not a "cold-blooded execution", as a court martial earlier concluded, but the result of a mental illness, an "adjustment disorder". Blackman was convicted of murder in November 2013 by a court martial in Bulford, Wiltshire, and sentenced to life with a minimum term of 10 years.

That sentence was later reduced to eight years on appeal because of the combat stress disorder he was suffering from at the time of the killing.

Overturning the murder conviction, the Court Martial Appeal Court said that Blackman had been "an exemplary soldier before his deployment to Afghanistan in March 2011", but had "suffered from quite exceptional stressors" during that deployment.

They found that his ability to "form a rational judgement" was "substantially impaired".

Blackman shot the insurgent - who had been seriously injured in an attack mounted from an Apache helicopter - in the chest at close range with a 9mm pistol before quoting a phrase from Shakespeare as the man convulsed and died in front of him.

He told him: "There you are. Shuffle off this mortal coil, you c***. It's nothing you wouldn't do to us.''

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