Soldier given suspended jail sentence but still faces internal disciplinary proceedings as judge condemns MPs who backed his campaign
The former SAS sniper Danny Nightingale was given a suspended jail sentence for illegally possessing a gun and ammunition, but still faces internal army disciplinary proceedings.
Nightingale, convicted two weeks previously, walked free from court but was told by the sentencing judge that he had put the public at risk by storing the Glock pistol and more than 300 rounds of ammunition at his home in a suburban street.
The judge advocate general, Jeff Blackett, also accused Nightingale of putting fellow SAS soldiers in danger by fighting the case, and criticised supporters and MPs who backed him during a high-profile campaign against an earlier conviction.
Nightingale is likely to appeal against his conviction. He has been ordered by his superiors not to talk about the case, which has embarrassed the Ministry of Defence and the SAS.
Nightingale is due to be medically discharged from the army next year but could be forced out of the army before then. A spokesman for the MoD said: “When any soldier is convicted of a serious offence, a process must be followed whereby the army considers their future in the forces. This is standard process and applies in all such cases.”
Outside the military court in Bulford, Wiltshire, Nightingale’s wife, Sally, said the family were devastated by the result.
The family face losing their house to meet their £120,000 legal costs and are worried that Nightingale may now struggle to get a job as a civilian. “It’s whether people can take him up with a conviction, we’ve got all that to consider now,” she said. “It will affect his future.”
It was the second time Nightingale, 38, had been convicted of possession the gun and ammunition, which was found in his room by civilian police. He initially said the pistol had been given to him as a war trophy in Iraq and he had the ammunition because he worked as a range instructor.
Nightingale admitted the offences last year and was detained for 18 months, but following a well-organised campaign spearheaded by his wife the sentence was reduced and the conviction quashed because of the way the case had been handled by the court.
During his retrial this month he denied the offences and claimed the pistol and ammunition did not belong to him. He said his earlier account of how he came by them was “confabulation” – his brain had unconsciously filled gaps in his memory caused by a severe illness he suffered while taking part in a jungle challenge.
The five-strong court martial board had convicted him and on Thursday Blackett sentenced him to two years detention suspended for 12 months.
He told Nightingale his explanation of how the gun and ammunition came to be in his room lacked credibility and the evidence against him was overwhelming.
Blackett said Nightingale’s assertions that he was “a scapegoat or the victim of some wider political agenda” was “absolute nonsense”.
The judge said criticism of the prosecution and …read more