Cameron hints conviction for murder should be reviewed
Lawyers for Sergeant Alexander Blackman – who was jailed for life for killing a wounded Taliban fighter – are drawing up an application to petition the Criminal Cases Review Commission
Campaign: Lawyers for Sergeant Alexander Blackman – who was jailed for life for killing a wounded Taliban fighter – are drawing up an application to petition the Criminal Cases Review Commission to send the case back to the Court of Appeal
David Cameron last night signalled his support for a potential appeal by jailed Royal Marine, Sergeant Alexander Blackman.
Lawyers for Sgt Blackman – who was jailed for life for killing a wounded Taliban fighter – are drawing up an application to petition the Criminal Cases Review Commission to send the case back to the Court of Appeal.
Mr Cameron said the case showed ‘exactly why the CCRC exists – to look at where there is or may have been a miscarriage of justice’. He also paid tribute to the Royal Marines, praising their ‘incredible contribution’ to our country.
His comments observe the impartial position which politicians take on legal matters, but will be seen as an indication of support for Sgt Blackman.
The Daily Mail launched its Justice for Sgt Blackman campaign in September after uncovering that crucial evidence was ‘deliberately withheld’ from his court martial.
The campaign, spearheaded by thriller writer Frederick Forsyth – who claims the Marine was ‘betrayed by the top brass’, secured the release to Sgt Blackmans lawyers of a crucial internal report into the case.
Readers also contributed a six-figure sum to a legal fund to aid his appeal.
Royal Marine veterans and other supporters of Sgt Blackman are planning to gather in Birmingham on December 16 to mark the moment his application is handed to the CCRC. Led by Jonathan Goldberg QC, the application is expected to argue that the lesser verdict of manslaughter – linked to loss of control caused by combat stress – was never raised by the defence team at the original court martial or put before the ‘jury’ panel of seven Royal Navy officers to consider at his sentencing two years ago.
Lawyers will say there was a wealth of evidence to show Sgt Blackman was suffering from battlefield stress syndrome and that he temporarily lost his control and snapped during the incident in Helmand in 2011. If the panel had been able to return a manslaughter verdict, his sentence could have been no more than three years in prison.
The Mail’s investigation also revealed that a high-flying officer, Colonel Oliver Lee, quit his commission in disgust at being blocked from offering evidence in support of Sgt Blackman.
And a secret Ministry of Defence report into the fiasco leaked to the Mail showed commanders had pushed the Marine’s unit to be too aggressive and failed to spot ‘psychological strain and fatigue’.
Mr Cameron was asked about the case at yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions by Richard Drax, a former soldier and Conservative MP for South Dorset, who has been campaigning for Sgt Blackman.
David Cameron signalled his support for a potential appeal by the jailed Royal Marine. His wife Claire, centre, attended a protest to show her support for a judicial review of the conviction
Mr Drax said told the Prime Minister there was a ‘growing chorus of concern surrounding the conviction of Alexander Blackman’, adding: ‘If there is indeed new evidence and if, as many feel, there has been a miscarriage of justice, do you agree it is right that this matter should be looked into again?’
Mr Cameron replied: ‘This is exactly why the CCRC exists – to look at where there is or may have been a miscarriage of justice. As you know, we gave the internal report of the naval services to Sergeant Blackmans legal advisers, so there is proper disclosure in this case.’
He added: ‘While we are on this point, let me say that our Royal Marines have a worldwide reputation as one of the world’s elite fighting forces. They have made an incredible contribution to our country, and we should pay tribute to them.’
Last night Sgt Blackmans wife Claire said: ‘We are heartened by today’s discussion in Prime Minister’s Questions and we are extremely grateful to Richard Drax, who has continued to support Al and his family throughout our campaign.’