A Royal Marine jailed for shooting an injured Taliban fighter in Afghanistan has had his murder conviction reduced to manslaughter by an appeal court.
Sgt Alexander Blackman, 42, from Taunton, Somerset, has served three years of a life sentence.
Five judges at the Court Martial Appeal Court in London ruled the conviction should be “manslaughter on the ground of diminished responsibility”.
A further hearing will decide what sentence Blackman should serve.
Blackman – who was known as Marine A during the original trial process and fully identified when he was convicted – was not in court to hear the decision.
The marine had a recognised mental illness at the time of the shooting in September 2011, the hearing was told.
His defence team argued that fresh psychiatric evidence, if available at the time, would have provided him with the “partial defence of diminished responsibility”.
The panel of judges were urged to overturn the “unsafe” murder conviction.
In Wednesday’s ruling, the judges said:
- Blackman had been “an exemplary soldier before his deployment to Afghanistan in March 2011”
- He had suffered from “quite exceptional stressors” which increasingly impacted on him the longer he was in command
- It was “clear that a consequence was that he had developed a hatred for the Taliban and a desire for revenge”
- At the time of the killing “the patrol remained under threat from other insurgents”
- In concluding, they said the stressors and his adjustment disorder had been factors in “substantially” impairing his ability to form a rational judgment
Sgt Blackman’s wife, Claire, was greeted by cheering supporters and honking taxi horns on the steps of the court before thanking the “tens of thousands of supporters, especially from the Royal Marines family, who have stood behind us throughout”.
Mrs Blackman, who led a campaign alongside author Frederick Forsyth and the Daily Mail, said she was “delighted” with the ruling.
“This is a crucial decision and one which better reflects the circumstances my husband found himself in during that terrible tour in Afghanistan,” she said.
Blackman’s lawyer, Jonathan Goldberg, said Mrs Blackman and Mr Forsyth were the “the hero and the heroine of this occasion”.
After the ruling, Mr Forsyth said: “It’s not over yet. We always wanted justice – a very elusive word, much used, seldom achieved.
“It’s a two-bladed weapon. Firstly, one blade to get a man who should never have been in prison out of prison, secondly, we go after those people who wrongly and, I think, villainously put him there.”