Jailed Brighton Royal Marine Alexander Blackman will be free in a few weeks’ time after five of Britain’s most senior judges sentenced him for manslaughter yesterday (Tuesday 28 March).
Sergeant Blackman, 42, from Bevendean, was sentenced to seven years in prison for killing an injured Taliban fighter in Afghanistan.
The sentence – at the Court Martial Appeal Court in London – means that he will be released within weeks, having already served almost three and a half years in prison.
Prisoners can be released after serving half their sentence in many cases and Sergeant Blackman is weeks away from the halfway point of his sentence at Erlestoke Prison, in Wiltshire.
He joined the court proceedings yesterday by video link from the prison.
He was originally jailed for life in 2013 for murder and discharged from the service in disgrace.Earlier this year the Court Martial Appeal Court accepted fresh evidence about Sergeant Blackman’s mental state as he neared the end of a “tour from hell” in 2011.
The judges reduced the conviction to manslaughter on the ground of diminished responsibility, accepting that Sergeant Blackman was suffering from combat stress.
There were jubilant scenes outside court, with many former Marines in the crowd as they celebrated the news.
Claire Blackman, Alex Blackman’s wife, said outside court: “We are overjoyed at the judges’ decision to significantly reduce Al’s sentence, such that he can be released imminently.”
Later she told the BBC: “He has always regretted his actions. If he could turn back the clock, he would do it in a heartbeat.”The Blackmans’ barrister Jonathan Goldberg described Mrs Blackman as “the lioness who inspired us”, saying: “She has shown that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.
“She kept the flame alive when the legal system had completely abandoned her husband. Her courage and her dignity have been amazing.”
Although the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, said that Sergeant Blackman would be freed within weeks, he ruled out any hope of the former Marine resuming his career.
The judge, John Thomas, said: “In the light of your service record and psychiatric condition there is no question of dismissal with disgrace.
“However, given the seriousness of the offence and the damage to Her Majesty’s armed forces he must be dismissed.”
Despite this, Mrs Blackman was able to tell her husband’s supporters outside court: “This is the moment that we have all been fighting hard for. It is hard to believe that this day is finally here.”
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