Background

Marines A, B and C were jointly charged with murder in that they, on or about the 15th day of September 2011 murdered an unknown captured person in Afghanistan. The trial took place between 23 October and 8 November, at Bulford Court Martial Centre, before His Honour Judge Jeff Blackett, the Judge Advocate general, and a board of seven officers and non-commissioned officers.

The incident was captured on a head camera worn by Marine B, who the Crown said thought he had deleted the footage, but a clip survived and was found by police in September 2012 on the laptop of another marine. Investigators later retrieved a second clip. A diary kept by Marine C was used by the prosecution as evidence to show that the killing had been premeditated and part of a plot involving a number of members of the patrol.

The Facts: The incident took place after a British military base was attacked by two fighters. A helicopter opened fire in response, and a patrol led by Marine A found the wounded Afghan in a field. A is recorded on the video saying, "Get him close in, so the [observation balloon] can't see what we're doing to him. He's over there, he can f***ing see us." The man was then dragged to a sheltered area out of view, during which time a discussion took place as to what to do with him. Marine A then asked, "Anyone want to do first aid on this idiot?" Marine C replied, "I'll put one in the head if you want", to which Marine A is heard to respond, "Not on his head, that'll be too obvious."

Marine A shot the Afghan with a nine millimetre pistol, before saying, "There you are. Shuffle off this mortal coil, you c***." Marine A then said: "Obviously this doesn't go anywhere fellas. I just broke the Geneva Convention." The prosecution had alleged that Marines B and C "encouraged and assisted Marine A in carrying out the killing." In a conversation recorded by the camera Marine C was heard asking A if he should shoot the man in the head. Marine B was then heard to say: "If it ever comes to light, it was just a warning shot that got fired." Marine B told the court he believed that the prisoner was alive and delivered first aid to him. He said that he was "stunned" when the shot was fired. Marine C said that he had left the immediate area of the prisoner 20 seconds before a shot was fired and wasn't even looking when his patrol commander fired the shot. Marines B and C were acquitted. Marine A was convicted of murder and will face a mandatory life sentence, subject to a minimum tariff.

Sentence: The penalty for murder is fixed by law as life imprisonment, subject to a tariff relating to the minimum number of years to be served before being eligible for parole, the details of which are set out in Statutory Guidelines (see section 269 and Schedule 21 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and the Consolidated Practice Direction IV.49.1 et seq.) Marine A, named as Sergeant Alexander Blackman, was sentenced on 6 December to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 10 years.    Note: Sgt Blackman's appeal against conviction was rejected, but his appeal against sentence succeeded to the extent that the minimum period (the 'tariff') was reduced to 8 years. The case was subsequently referred back to the Court Martial Appeal Court by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, principally relying on psychiatric evidence, obtained since the court martial, which showed that both at the time of the killing and at the time of the trial, the appellant was suffering from an adjustment disorder, a recognised medical condition. The Court held that the killing had to be seen within the overarching framework of the disorder which had substantially impaired his ability to form a rational judgement and that substantially impaired his ability to exercise self-control. A verdict of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility was substituted. On 28th March 2017, the court reduced the sentence to 7 years imprisonment which, taking into account time served and remission, meant his immediate release.

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