SAS gun appeal: Danny Nightingale conviction overturned

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Media captionSgt Danny Nightingale: "Thank you to everybody"

An SAS sniper who was jailed for possessing a gun has had his conviction overturned at the Court of Appeal.

Sgt Danny Nightingale, from Crewe, admitted possessing a 9mm Glock pistol and 338 rounds of ammunition, at a court martial in November.

He was sentenced to 18 months military detention which was reduced to a 12-month suspended sentence on appeal.

Sgt Nightingale, who said he was given the gun as a present while serving in Iraq, will now face a retrial.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, Mr Justice Mackay and Mr Justice Sweeney were told by William Clegg QC, acting for Sgt Nightingale, that the soldier had been placed under "improper pressure" to plead guilty at the military trial.

Mr Clegg told the court the barrister representing Sgt Nightingale in November, Ian Winter QC, had told his client that he could expect a five-year prison sentence if found guilty but that there was a chance of avoiding a custodial sentence if he pleaded guilty.

Image caption The soldier had said he was given the gun as a present in Iraq

Sgt Nightingale's lawyer said Mr Winter had simply been explaining to his client what the trial judge had said.

'Attack with vigour'

In response David Perry QC argued there was nothing unusual in the way Mr Winter had advised Sgt Nightingale about the difference in sentences passed after guilty pleas and those passed following trials.

Lord Judge said: "The question is whether the uninvited indication [of likely sentence] by the judge and its consequent impact on the defendant created improper pressure and narrowed his freedom of choice.

"We rule that it did and therefore order the conviction to be quashed."

Speaking outside the court, Sgt Nightingale thanked his supporters and said he was elated the "right decision" had been made, adding he would enter a not guilty plea at the retrial.

He said: "We will attack it with the same vigour and tenacity as we've done this. We will pursue it throughout.

"It's been really hard. I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy's family.

"It's not a fun ordeal."

'Mixed emotions'

Sgt Nightingale said whether he returned to duty pending the retrial was a decision for the Ministry of Defence.

"It's very frustrating," he added. "It's a job that I'm trained for so not being able to do that is very frustrating."

His wife Sally, who had been at his side during the hearing, said: "We're delighted with the outcome. There are mixed emotions because the SPA [Service Prosecuting Authority] have ordered a retrial.

"But tonight we'll celebrate the fact Danny is not convicted of a crime anymore."

The pistol and ammunition were found by West Mercia Police at Sgt Nightingale's Hereford accommodation.

The sniper had been serving his sentence at the Military Corrective Training Centre in Colchester, Essex, prior to his release last year.

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