Royal Marine to learn result of Taliban murder conviction appeal

Updated: 

A Royal Marine who shot an injured Taliban fighter in Afghanistan will learn the result of an appeal against his murder conviction today. 

Five judges at the Court Martial Appeal Court in London are announcing their decision in the case of Sergeant Alexander Blackman, 42, from Taunton, Somerset.

They have heard argument on his behalf that fresh psychiatric evidence would have provided him with a diminished responsibility defence.

The panel of judges, headed by Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, have been urged to overturn the "unsafe" murder conviction on the basis of "uncontradicted" evidence from three distinguished psychiatrists that Blackman was suffering from a mental illness - an adjustment disorder - at the time of the killing.

If Blackman succeeds in having his murder conviction quashed and a verdict of manslaughter is substituted, the issue of the appropriate sentence to be imposed will be dealt with at a future hearing.

Jonathan Goldberg QC said at a hearing in February that the key "stressors" were Blackman's perception of poor leadership above him, isolation, a family history of depression, an earlier near-fatal grenade attack and the death of a colleague he had mentored.

His disorder substantially impaired his ability to form a rational judgment or exercise self-control and this would have affected his ability to know whether the insurgent was alive or not.

Richard Whittam QC, for the Crown, said there was no evidence to the contrary about Blackman having an adjustment disorder but the issue was "did it cause what happened".

Blackman, who will not be present for Wednesday's ruling, 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 a conviction challenge but reduced the minimum term to eight years because of the combat stress disorder he was suffering from.

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.

The appeal judges heard that at the time of the 2011 incident, Blackman was serving with Plymouth-based 42 Commando in Helmand province in "ghastly" conditions which were a "breeding ground" for mental health problems.

Blackman 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.

He 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 his 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.

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