Last year, the story of Sgt Danny Nightingale was all over the press. The background is briefly as follows:
Sgt Nightingale has been a member of the armed forces for 17 years, with 11 of those spent in the SAS. Whilst in Iraq in 2007 he was given a weapon as a gift or ‘war trophy’ marking his ‘outstanding service’.
Sgt Nightingale returned to the UK after the deaths of two close colleagues and his belongings were shipped back to him by his colleagues. This included the weapon and ammunition, which were stored in a lockable box. The Court did not accept that Sgt Nightingale had forgotten about its existence completely, although due to other matters, they accepted that he ‘gave little or no weight to it’.
In 2009, Sgt Nightingale suffered serious injury which, it was accepted, affected his memory to some extent. By October 2010 however, he had recovered and was back on active service. In May 2010, the box containing the weapon was moved into the mess, and then in January 2011 into Sgt Nightingale’s home.
In mid-2011, he went on operations and placed the weapon in a cupboard and the ammunition underneath his bed. The Court considered that during this move Sgt Nightingale would have clearly recalled both the pistol and ammunition but no doubt placed it very low on his list of things to sort out due to being so busy (as a result of going on operations).
The court stated: ‘The court would not be doing its duty in relation to protection of the public at large if it did not bear in mind the potential grave consequences of your behaviour.’
Reference was made to the statutory minimum sentence of 5 years. The Court found exceptional circumstances which enabled them to impose a sentence below the statutory minimum. Sgt Nightingale was detained for 18 months.
History of the court hearings
We covered the Court Martial hearing here, where Sgt Nightingale pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months detention.
We reported the Court Martial Appeal Court judgement (sentence appeal) here, where the court reduced the sentence to one of 12 months suspended.
We examined that decision here.
Yesterday, Sgt Nightingale’s solicitor, Simon McKay (@SimonMcKay) confirmed that the appeal against conviction will be heard on 13 March, and will principally be based on the issue of Sgt Nightingale’s alleged equivocal plea:
We will cover the appeal and the decision on 13 March.