Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Sgt Danny Nightingale - Military justice under the microscope (2)

Update 10th July:  Sgt. Nightingale has been convicted - The Guardian 10th July  and BBC News England 10th July.  Sentencing to be at a later date.

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This post is based on The Times leading article of 1st July 'Army chiefs go to war with SAS' - (here - £ paywall).

On Monday 1st July, The Times reported that the Danny Nightingale case (see previous post) coincides with concerns in the Army over the SAS after a decade of combat operations in the Middle East.  'Sources said that the chain of command was uneasy about an apparent culture of impunity in the regiment and was determined to "grip" the situation' and further.   An amnesty for illegal weapons, which was instituted after Sergeant Nightingale's arrest, is understood to have shocked senior officers.'

The Times further reported
that the Ministry of Defence was to call 16 members of the SAS to testify against Sergeant Nightingale during the two week trial and that two possible prosecution witnesses are SAS members now in prison.  The housemate was convicted of possession of a pistol, silence, a hand grenade, several hundred rounds of ammunition and stun grenades.  He received a 2 year sentence.  Another witness was convicted of 15 counts of rape on children as young as 4 and is now serving 25 years.  He was also found to have 200 rounds of illegally held ammunition.

Sergeant Nightingale's backers say that he is being made a scapegoat to deliver a message to the Army that no one is above the law.  [If true, one might think that such a point had already been made?].  Nightingale was recommended in June for discharge on medical grounds after an army board accepted that he had suffered brain  damage in 2009 after collapsing during a 200 mile trek in the Amazon jungle.

Another aspect of this matter is that it has been reported that the Nightingale family may have to sell their home to fund the case.  The government's latest legal aid proposals do not refer to the court martial.   The Armed Forces Criminal Legal Aid Authority administers a distinct legal aid scheme based upon the same principles as those which apply in the civilian system, with additional provision for the unique circumstances of entitled personnel.   So, for example, determination (review) and payment of costs and disbursements is calculated using the formulae applied to lawyers defending in the Crown Court, whether the matter relates to cases for service personnel abroad or not.

Further report - Mail Online 1st July

The case continues ....

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