Ex-SAS sniper gets two-year suspended sentence for illegally possessing Glock 9mm and 300 rounds
The former SAS sniper Danny Nightingale has been sentenced to two years’ military detention suspended for 12 months after being found guilty of illegally possessing a pistol and ammunition.
Nightingale, 38, who has served with distinction in Iraq and Afghanistan, was convicted of the offences at a court martial in Wiltshire earlier this month.
He was originally sentenced to 18 months in detention last year but freed after a high-profile campaign. His conviction was quashed because of the way the initial hearing was handled and a retrial ordered.
The judge advocate general, Jeff Blackett, told Nightingale that his account of how the pistol came to be in his room lacked credibility and the evidence against him was overwhelming.
But he said there were circumstances that allowed the court to suspend the sentence “because of your exceptional character”.
The judge also said that “criticism of the prosecution and the army is unmerited and totally without foundation”.
“We understand how difficult these proceedings have been for you and your family. However, you have brought much of that anguish upon yourself and your public assertions that you are a scapegoat or the victim of some wider political agenda is absolute nonsense,” he said.
“You are simply someone against whom there was a strong prima facie case of serious wrongdoing and, given the dangers to society caused by illegal firearms and their misuse, it was in the public interest to prosecute you.
“You have now had a fair trial before a civilian judge and an independent and impartial board. All of the issues you wished to raise and all the submissions you wished to make have been fully considered and verdicts properly given.
“It would have made no difference had you been tried before a civilian jury – the evidence against you was overwhelming and I have no doubt the verdicts would have been the same.”
The judge also criticised commentators and MPs who had criticised the prosecution. “I trust that those who have been so critical of the service prosecuting authority and the court martial process – particularly those who made unfounded and uninformed remarks under the cloak of parliamentary privilege – now realise how inappropriate and wrong their criticisms were.”
Blackett, who sat with a five-person board, said if it had not been for a previous court of appeal decision that reduced the original custodial sentence, Nightingale would be going to prison.
“In our opinion, the seriousness of this case does merit an immediate custodial sentence but we feel constrained by the decision of their lordships. In those circumstances, we have decided that the sentences passed should both be suspended for a period of 12 months.”
Outside court, Nightingale’s wife, Sally, said: “We are disappointed with the sentencing but pleased that Danny will be coming home tonight.”
She said they would take advice from their legal team before deciding whether to fight on. “We have got to sit down as a family to discuss the whole issue.”
But she said …read more