Army heads at war with SAS over sniper Sergeant Danny Nightingale
The Army will call in jailed soldiers in an attempt to secure the criminal conviction of an SAS sniper, it is reported.
Sgt Danny Nightingale Photo: PA
By Radhika Sanghani12:33PM BST 01 Jul 2013
Senior military officials will call on ex-special forces members with criminal convictions as witnesses in the retrial of Sergeant Danny Nightingale, which begins today.
Sergeant Nightingale, whose conviction was quashed by the Appeal Court in March, is accused of illegal possession of a Glock pistol and ammunition.
The case coincides with concerns in the Army over the SAS after a decade of combat operations in the Middle East, according to The Times.
Sources told the newspaper that the chain of command was uneasy about an apparent culture of impunity in the regiment and was determined to “grip” the situation.
Sergeant Nightingale’s case caused a public outcry after it was highlighted in the media that he was arrested for possessing a pistol which was gifted to him as a war trophy by Iraqi troops he helped to train.
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Last year he was jailed for 18 months detention for the offence but after the media coverage he was released and given a 12 month suspended sentence.
He later successfully appealed against both his conviction and sentence, but his retrial begins today.
The Ministry of Defence is to call 16 members of the SAS to testify against him during the two week trial, several of whom will be flown back from Afghanistan.
Two possible prosecution witnesses are SAS members now in prison.
One, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was Sergeant Nightingale’s housemate at accommodation outside army quarters in Hereford and was convicted of illegal possession of a pistol, silencer, a hand grenade, several hundred rounds of ammunition and stun grenades.
He is expected to complete his two-year sentence next week.
Another witness is Corporal Ian Tuckley, an SAS soldier convicted of 15 counts of rape on children as young as 4 in November 2011 and jailed for 25 years.
He was also found to have 200 rounds of illegally held ammunition.
Sergeant Nightingale’s supporters say that he is being made a scapegoat to deliver a message to the Army that no one is above the law.
His family have warned that they will have to sell their house to fund the case after it was extended from a two-day trial.
“The Service Prosecution Authority has outsourced the trial to external lawyers, and, as a sergeant facing medical discharge, Danny obviously does not have their resources,” the soldier’s lawyer, Simon McKay, told The Times, adding that he would plead not guilty.
Sergeant Nightingale was recommended for discharge on medical grounds in June after an army board accepted that he had suffered brain damage in 2009 after collapsing during a 200-mile trek in the Amazon Jungle.
The defence is expected to argue that impairment of his memory offered an alibi for possession of the pistol.