Royal Marine found guilty of murdering Afghan fighter in bail bid pending appeal


A Royal Marine found guilty of murdering an injured Afghan fighter is today asking leading judges to free him from jail pending a new appeal against his conviction.

Lawyers for 42-year-old Sergeant Alexander Blackman will urge Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas and Mr Justice Openshaw to grant him bail.

The move follows the announcement by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), the independent body which investigates possible miscarriages of justice, of its decision to refer Blackman's conviction and sentence to the Court Martial Appeal Court for review.

Blackman, of Taunton in Somerset, 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 his conviction challenge, but reduced the minimum term - the least he must serve before becoming eligible to apply for parole - to eight years because of the combat stress disorder he was suffering from at the time of the incident.

The killing happened in Helmand province in 2011 while Blackman was serving with Plymouth-based 42 Commando.

He 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.

Blackman 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. Two junior colleagues were cleared of murder.

During his trial, Blackman - who 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.

As well as the life sentence, Blackman - who denied murder - was ''dismissed with disgrace'' from the Royal Marines after he had served with distinction for 15 years, including tours of Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland.

Blackman applied to the CCRC in December 2015 for a review. The commission said that following an "in-depth", 11-month investigation it had decided to refer the case.

The commission said it had concluded that a number of new issues "raise a real possibility" that the Court Martial Appeal Court "will now quash Mr Blackman's murder conviction".

When the fresh appeal is heard, judges will be asked to consider a number of issues, including new expert evidence acquired by the CCRC relating to the soldier's mental state at the time of the offence, and the fact that an alternative verdict of unlawful act manslaughter was not available to the court martial board when it considered the case.

Blackman will not be present at the bail hearing at the Court Martial Appeal Court in London.

His wife Claire, who is fighting to clear her husband's name, has said she was "trying hard not to get excited" about his possible release.

"We think we've got a really strong application for bail and we're hopeful, of course - it would be amazing, it would be fantastic, but one step at a time," she said.

She told the Daily Telegraph her husband's release would mean she would have "the best Christmas ever".