Royal Marine convicted of murdering injured Afghan fighter could be bailed today


A Royal Marine serving life after being found guilty of murdering an injured Afghan fighter finds out today if he is to be freed pending a new challenge against his conviction.

Lawyers for Sergeant Alexander Blackman, 42, of Taunton in Somerset, have urged judges at the Court Martial Appeal Court in London to grant him bail.

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

The application was heard last Friday, but Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas and Mr Justice Openshaw adjourned the case until today.

Lord Thomas said the court would decide the issue of bail after hearing submissions from the prosecution on the stance it is taking on new evidence relating to Blackman's mental state.

He said last week: "As that decision is central to the way in which the appeal will be heard and the timescale within which it can be heard, including the probability of hearing it within weeks, the court considers that the interests of justice are best-served by adjourning this application until next week."

Lord Thomas announced: "When the court receives the Crown's indication of its stance, it will then determine the issue of bail and give further directions."

Blackman 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.

During his trial, Blackman - who denied murder and 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.

He was ''dismissed with disgrace'' from the Royal Marines after serving with distinction for 15 years, including tours of Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland.

After an 11-month investigation, the CCRC announced 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".