Finally the correct decision has been reached, and the murder conviction handed out to Sgt Alexander Blackman has been replaced with one of “manslaughter on the ground of diminished responsibility”.
However, the burning question remains as to how it took this long for reason to prevail. Sgt Blackman was wrong and Sgt Blackman committed a crime. Sgt Blackman himself acknowledged he was wrong right at the outset as in the recording of the incident he is heard to say that his actions in shooting a wounded Taleban fighter in Afghanistan were in contravention of the Geneva Convention.
But the circumstances of that crime were never properly taken into account before now.
The morality of war is not the same as that of civilisation. Decisions taken on the battlefield cannot be judged by the usual parameters. Lives are being lost, the survival of the troops under his command would have been the primary motivation of Sgt Blackman, in a very fast-moving, confusing and stressful environment, not noticing the instant in which the rules change must be easy.
The appeal court heard that Sgt Blackman had been suffering from a recognised mental illness at the time of the killing, and that he had suffered from “quite exceptional stressors” which increasingly impacted on him the longer he was in command, and that at the time of the killing the patrol remained under threat from other insurgents.
Had it not been for the determination and courage of his wife and other supporters, justice may not have been served. He has already served three years of his life sentence. It is to be hoped that his new sentence will be appropriate given the circumstances.