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Royal Marine's bail bid fails ahead of murder conviction challenge

A Royal Marine serving life after being found guilty of murdering an injured Afghan fighter has lost a bid for freedom pending a new challenge against his conviction.

Sergeant Alexander Blackman, 42, of Taunton in Somerset, who watched proceedings via video link from prison, failed to persuade two judges at the Court Martial Appeal Court to grant him bail.

Blackman's wife Claire sat with dozens of supporters in a packed London courtroom on Wednesday to hear Jonathan Goldberg QC urge Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas and Mr Justice Sweeney to rule that it was an "exceptional" case in which bail could be given.

The judges dismissed the application but announced that an "expedited" appeal would be heard either at the end of January or "as soon as possible" in February.

Blackman's bail move followed the announcement by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), the independent body that investigates possible miscarriages of justice, of its decision to refer his conviction and sentence to the court for review.

The CCRC announced it had concluded that a number of new issues, including fresh evidence relating to Blackman's mental state, "raise a real possibility" that the Court Martial Appeal Court "will now quash Mr Blackman's murder conviction".

Speaking outside court, Mrs Blackman said: "We are obviously disappointed by the judges' decision not to grant bail this afternoon.

"However we must remember that earlier this month the Criminal Cases Review Commission decided to refer the case back to the appeal courts and this is the most important step towards getting Al's conviction and sentence overturned.

"We are grateful to the courts for expediting the appeal process."

Lord Thomas continued restrictions imposed at a hearing last Friday preventing reporting of the details of the proceedings, but gave the go-ahead for the c ourt's judgment on the bail application and other matters to be publicised.

In the ruling, Lord Thomas said the "practice of the court is always to expedite appeals rather than release on bail", except in "exceptional circumstances".

He announced that " despite the unprecedented nature of this case", the court "can see no basis for departing from what is that practice".

Blackman was convicted in November 2013 by a court martial in Bulford, Wiltshire, and sentenced to life with a minimum term of 10 years.

In May 2014, the Court Martial Appeal Court rejected a conviction challenge, but reduced the minimum term to eight years because of the combat stress disorder he was suffering from at the time of the 2011 incident in Helmand province while serving with Plymouth-based 42 Commando.

Blackman shot the insurgent, who had been seriously injured in an attack by 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.''

He then turned to comrades and said: ''Obviously this doesn't go anywhere, fellas. I just broke the Geneva Convention.''

The shooting was captured on a camera mounted on the helmet of another Royal Marine.

During his trial, Blackman - who denied murder and was known at that stage as Marine A - said he believed the victim was already dead and he was taking out his anger on a corpse.

He was ''dismissed with disgrace'' from the Royal Marines after serving with distinction for 15 years, including tours of Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland.

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