Murder case Royal Marine loses bail bid ahead of appeal

A Royal Marine serving life after being found guilty of murdering an injured Afghan fighter has been refused bail pending a new challenge against his conviction.

Claire Blackman, wife of British Sergeant Alexander Blackman, leaves the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Picture: AFP/Daniel Leal/Getty Images

Sergeant Alexander Blackman, 42, of Taunton in Somerset, failed to persuade two judges at the Court Martial Appeal Court in London to free him from prison.

The bail move followed the announcement by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), the independent body that investigates possible miscarriages of justice, of its decision to refer Blackman’s conviction and sentence to the court for review.

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Blackman watched the proceedings via video link from jail.

Blackman was convicted in November 2013 by a court martial in Bulford, Wiltshire, and sentenced to life with a minimum term of 10 years, which was later reduced to eight years on appeal because of the combat stress he was suffering from at the time of the incident.

He shot the insurgent in Helmand province in 2011 while serving with Plymouth-based 42 Commando.

Lord Thomas said it was the practice of the Court of Appeal Criminal Division and the Court Martial Appeal Court “only to grant bail in exceptional circumstances”.

He said Blackman’s lawyer, Jonathan Goldberg QC, submitted that “this is an exceptional case, both as to the circumstances of the crime and as to the appellant”.

Lord Thomas said the court “recognises that the prosecution of the appellant for murder and his subsequent conviction for murder were unprecedented”.

He announced: “Despite the powerful new psychiatric and other evidence, the question of whether a verdict of diminished responsibility should be substituted or a retrial ordered is a matter of dispute on the part of the Crown.

“In those circumstances the court cannot say that the merits of the appeal are overwhelming, nor can it say that there is any other basis upon which it could take the exceptional course of allowing bail in circumstances where it is able so substantially to expedite the appeal.”