Marine A wins chance to appeal after review finds real possibility of

first_imgRoyal Marines veterans rally at Parliament in support of BlackmanCredit:Dinendra Haria/Rex Royal Marines veterans rally at Parliament in support of Blackman Sgt Alexander Blackman was given a life sentence and told he must serve at least eight years in prisonCredit:Andrew Parsons/PA Blackman’s wife, Claire, told the Telegraph she and her husband were now “cautiously optimistic”.She said: “It needs a little bit of time to sink in, but we are both delighted and incredibly grateful that the CCRC has given Al this chance.”It’s just the first step. We have got a long way to go and we can’t afford to be carried away, but we are cautiously optimistic.”Lawyers for the 42-year-old former sergeant hailed the move as a “very significant” step and announced they would immediately mount a bail application to try to have him home by Christmas.Jonathan Goldberg QC, leading Blackman’s legal team, said the odds had now turned in has favour, with nearly three quarters of cases reaching this stage eventually being quashed.The CCRC decision follows a high-profile campaign by Blackman’s wife, Claire, and supporters who argue he should have faced a manslaughter charge because of the strain and appalling conditions he endured before the September 2011 incident in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. Sgt Alexander Blackman was given a life sentence and told he must serve at least eight years in prisoncenter_img Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. New evidence relating to Blackman’s mental health at the time and the fact that an alternative verdict of unlawful manslaughter was not available during the trial means the case will return to the Court Martial Appeal Court.David James Smith, lead CCRC commissioner on the case, said the body had looked a Blackman’s case “in minute detail” after being given 1,100 pages of new evidence and legal argument.He said: “After a thorough investigation we have concluded that there are new issues – principally relating to Mr Blackman’s state of mind at the time of the shooting – which in our view raise a real possibility that an appeal against conviction would now succeed.”On that basis we are sending the case back to the Court Martial Appeal Court so that a fresh appeal can be heard.”Blackman has already served more than three years in prison and his legal team believe if an appeal reduces his conviction to manslaughter, he will be freed immediately.Mr Goldberg said: “Of course, we still have a long road ahead, but there are strong grounds for optimism that Sgt Blackman will have his murder conviction quashed. The odds have turned in our favour, as 73 per cent of all such referrals by the CCRC succeed.“I fear the legal profession will not find itself covered in glory by the end of this saga.“We will now mount a bail application as soon as possible, in the hope of getting him released before Christmas.”Blackman was given a life sentence and told he must serve at least eight years in prison after a 2013 court martial where he was identified only as “Marine A”.Helmet camera footage showed him shooting the gravely injured insurgent fighter in the chest at point blank range, before quoting Shakespeare. He then turned to his patrol and told them to keep quiet because he had broken the Geneva Convention.Blackman, of 42 Commando, told his trial he believed the unnamed Taliban fighter was already dead when he shot him in the chest.Two other marines were acquitted of murder at the same court martial.Blackman was dismissed in disgrace after his conviction and told he had “betrayed your Corps and all British service personnel who have served in Afghanistan, and you have tarnished their reputation”.Blackman’s appeal is now expected to be heard in the middle of next year.A Ministry of Defence Spokesman said: “We will continue to co-operate fully with any legal process involving Sergeant Blackman’s case.” A Royal Marine serving a life sentence for murdering a Taliban captive has a “real possibility” his conviction will be quashed, an independent review has found after examining new evidence.The legal body which examines possible miscarriages of justice has given Alexander Blackman the right to appeal his conviction after it spent a year studying his case.Investigators at the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) ruled the case should be heard again because of new evidence about Blackman’s mental health and concerns his court martial had no option to hand down a lesser manslaughter verdict.last_img

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