Marine who won Taliban murder conviction appeal to be sentenced

Updated: 

A Royal Marine who shot an injured Taliban fighter in Afghanistan will be sentenced today for diminished responsibility manslaughter, after his murder conviction was quashed by leading judges.

Five judges at the Court Martial Appeal Court ruled recently that Alexander Blackman, 42, from Taunton, Somerset, was suffering from an "abnormality of mental functioning" at the time of the 2011 killing.

Blackman will appear via video link for the sentencing proceedings in London.

The panel of judges, headed by Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, will hear mitigation from Jonathan Goldberg QC before deciding on the sentence to impose.

Mr Goldberg is expected to urge the court to impose a term which will result in Blackman's immediate release from prison.

When the court overturned the murder conviction, the judges found that the incident was not a "cold-blooded execution" as a court martial had earlier concluded, but the result of a mental illness - an "adjustment disorder".

Blackman was convicted of murder in November 2013 by a court martial in Bulford, Wiltshire, and sentenced to life with a minimum term of 10 years.

That term was later reduced to eight years on appeal because of the combat stress disorder he was suffering from at the time of the killing in Helmand province while serving with Plymouth-based 42 Commando.

The judges said that Blackman had been "an exemplary soldier before his deployment to Afghanistan in March 2011", but had "suffered from quite exceptional stressors" during that deployment.

They found that his ability to "form a rational judgment" was "substantially impaired".

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 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.