THE family of an SAS sniper say they are “bitterly disappointed” after a judge ruled he would face a retrial over illegally possessing a pistol and ammunition, despite a last-minute claim that prosecutors acted improperly by consulting on the case.
Sergeant Danny Nightingale, 38, yesterday pleaded not guilty to illegally possessing a Glock 9mm pistol and more than 300 rounds of ammunition.
He was convicted last year and sentenced to military detention, before having his sentence reduced and conviction quashed by Court of Appeal judges.
Yesterday’s ruling means he will face a retrial in July, where he will fight to clear his name.
Speaking outside Bulford Military Court Centre in Wiltshire yesterday, Sgt Nightingale thanked his family, including his wife Sally, for their support.
Describing his ordeal in the courts, the soldier said: “I wouldn’t wish it on anyone’s family – it’s horrible. That’s not just for Sally, myself and the kids, it’s on the wider family. It’s hard.
“Thanks to everybody, the family who have come from around the world for this, thanks to the public and to the media, who have been very supportive throughout.”
Paying tribute to his partner, he said: “Without her, without Sal and the family, I wouldn’t be here now. They’ve been amazing, strong, very robust.”
Mrs Nightingale said: “Our lives are on hold completely. Every day is consumed by this case, all our conversations with our friends and family are consumed by this case.”
She said the financial pressures were being supported by a charitable organisation – DannyNightingale.org – which was raising money for their fight to clear his name.
She added: “We want a fair trial and to feel Danny has been given a fair trial.
“We’re obviously bitterly disappointed today that we are going ahead with a retrial now. But in some respects there are still a lot of unanswered questions for us.”
At a preparatory hearing to discuss the future of the case yesterday, Judge Advocate Jeff Blackett said there was no abuse of process relating to content in secret e-mails apparently leaked by a Ministry of Defence source, referred to for the first time.
He said: “Provided I am satisfied that there has been no bad faith or dishonesty and that the exercise of a prosecutorial discretion has been conscientiously undertaken, I should direct that the matter proceeds to trial.
“I am so satisfied. There is no abuse of process, and I dismiss the defendant’s application to stay these proceedings.”
Sgt Nightingale’s counsel, Simon McKay, told the court the e-mails – leaked, he said, by an MoD “whistleblower” – appeared to show the director of service prosecutions consulting the military “chain of command”, the Adjutant General’s office, on whether to pursue the case against the soldier.
However, prosecutors said there was nothing “improper” with the conduct alleged in the e-mail.
Sgt Nightingale, from the Duke of Lancaster Regiment, appeared in court wearing full military uniform and answered “not guilty” to two charges put to him yesterday.
The trial, at Bulford, is expected to start on 1 July.