Danny Nightingale avoids jail over possession of pistol and ammunition

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 end of the case, for now at least, will come as a huge relief for army prosecutors who have been criticised by Nightingale’s supporters for continuing to pursue the former soldier.

It will also be a relief to the SAS, who have been horrified at the glimpses that the case has given into its secret workings. Some members have viewed the saga as an attempt by military top brass to rein the regiment in.

The sentence is a bitter blow for the soldier and father-of-two, who faces having to sell his family home to help pay legal costs.

The court martial at Bulford camp had heard that a Glock 9mm pistol with more than 300 rounds of ammunition were found in Nightingale’s bedroom in a house shared with a friend and SAS colleague.

Nightingale was brought back to the UK from Afghanistan where he was serving and told civilian police the pistol had been a present from Iraqis he had worked with in 2007. He said he had carelessly stockpiled the ammunition while he worked as a range instructor for the SAS.

At his first court martial last year Nightingale said he could not actually remember being given the pistol, explaining that he had suffered memory loss following a serious illness during an Amazonian jungle challenge. But when it was suggested by the court that he could face five years in prison if he fought the charges he pleaded guilty – he was then shocked when he was handed 18 months in military detention rather than the expected suspended sentence.

His wife, Sally, and legal team launched a campaign to free him. The sentence was reduced and eventually quashed. However, the military prosecutors decided to order a fresh court martial even though Nightingale is being medically discharged early next year.

During the latest hearing, Nightingale claimed the pistol and ammunition must have belonged to his colleague and housemate, who could be identified only as Soldier N. His explanation about how he came by the gun and ammunition was put down to “confabulation” – an unconscious trick of the mind in which gaps are filled in with false memories.

A court martial board took less than five hours to find him guilty of the two charges.

Following his conviction, Nightingale compared his battle with the military authorities to the fight between David and Goliath.

He said his family was close to “financial ruin” because of the case but …read more