AN SAS sniper released from jail after winning an appeal will continue the fight to quash his conviction, he said yesterday.
Sergeant Danny Nightingale, 37, was originally given 18 months’ military detention for illegally possessing a pistol and ammunition.
But on Thursday, three appeal judges concluded the sentence was too harsh and cut the term to 12 months, saying it should be suspended, as well as ordering Sgt Nightingale’s release.
Despite describing the prospect of being home with his family as an “early Christmas present”, the father of two and his wife, Sally, said he would continue to appeal against the conviction.
Mrs Nightingale, from Cheshire, said: “Danny is very limited on what he can say.” But she added they were fighting to get his conviction quashed.
“I am really happy with the result we got, but we do need to go on and we need to clear Danny’s name,” she said.
“Danny has been used as a scapegoat and they chose the wrong person to do that to.
“There are so many mitigating circumstances. He was the wrong person to choose to make an example of.”
Sgt Nightingale was handed his sentence after admitting illegally possessing a Glock 9mm pistol and more than 300 rounds of ammunition.
He claimed he could not remember having the pistol – given as a gift after serving in Iraq – due to a brain injury which had affected his memory.
Judges heard that more than 100,000 people had signed a petition calling for Sgt Nightingale to be freed after his wife and other family members launched a campaign. The case attracted support from politicians as well as the press and general public.
Judges are to rule later on whether Sgt Nightingale’s conviction should be overturned.
Asked yesterday if his experience had affected his views of the military, Sgt Nightingale said: “My feelings towards the military have not changed at all.”
And questioned over whether he wants to return to the SAS, he said: “As it stands, of course I do. The proudest moment of my life was the day I walked into that establishment.”
But he said that he would “see where it goes”, depending on what happens. Sgt Nightingale described seeing daughters Alys and Mara as, “fantastic – it was an early Christmas present”.
Asked what they had said to him, he said they asked him to, “tickle my feet, Daddy”. He added: “The hugs were enough, really. Words weren’t needed to be spoken – hugs were enough.”
Of Thursday’s court hearing, he said: “It was a rollercoaster of nerves and emotions, but fantastic. I’m absolutely elated knowing that I am going to see my family and will be with them for Christmas. I prepared myself to be there for a lot longer.”
Mrs Nightingale, who has campaigned tirelessly for her husband’s release, said: “It took a few minutes to sink in. The whole courtroom just breathed a sigh of relief. I was actually feeling sick to my stomach all day, I just didn’t know which was it was going to go.”
Her husband said: “Common sense prevailed and also the support shown by everyone.”