Claire Blackman, the wife of a Royal Marine jailed for murdering a Taliban fighter is to submit a dossier of new evidence against his conviction next week – including claims a sergeant major was barred from giving mitigating evidence which could have resulted in him receiving a lesser sentence of manslaughter.
Evidence amassed by Sgt Blackman’s legal team will be handed to the Criminal Cases Review Commission in Birmingham on Wednesday as part of a push to have his case sent back to the Court of Appeal.
Sgt Blackman was a highly experienced Marine destined for promotion when, on September 15, 2011, he led a patrol to check on a Taliban gunman who had been mortally wounded while attacking a British outpost in Helmand Province. It was near the end of a horror-filled tour of Afghanistan in which fellow Marines had been tortured and killed.
The insurgent was found dying in a field, and was shot by Blackman – who told the court he believed the man was already dead – in a ‘moment of madness’ blamed on the acute stresses of the tour.
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He was arrested following the discovery of footage from the killing captured on a helmet camera by a fellow marine.
The Daily Mail, who have campaigned on behalf of the Blackman family, has revealed his former commanding officer, Colonel Oliver Lee, quit in disgust after being snubbed when he tried to give mitigating evidence in favour of Sgt Blackman.
Among the evidence amassed by Sgt Blackman’s legal team to be used in his appeal bid is unheard testimony from a regimental sergeant major.
He claims he was prevented from telling a court that Sgt Blackman’s unit was failed by commanders and had been left to ‘go feral’, without enough support to fight the Taliban.
Hundreds of Royal Marine veterans and other well-wishers are planning to join Mrs Blackman in Birmingham on the 16th December to mark the moment she hands her husband’s application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission. Supporters of Sgt Blackman claim he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice.
Mrs Blackman said: ‘It’s an exciting time. There have been months and months of meticulous work by the QC and his team. It’s fantastic to know we are not fighting this fight on our own, but with what feels like the whole country, and beyond, right behind us.’
An M.O.D spokesman said the department had ‘followed and supported the legal process throughout this case’.
He added: ‘We respect the authority and decision of the court and will, of course, cooperate fully with any future legal process.’
Lawyers presenting Sgt Blackman’s case to the CCRC will say there was a wealth of evidence to show Sgt Blackman was suffering from battlefield stress syndrome and that he temporarily lost his control and snapped during the incident.
If the court martial panel had been able to return a manslaughter verdict, his sentence could have been no more than three years in prison.
We’re sending all of our well wishes to Sgt Blackman and his family!