Marine Alexander Blackman should be freed, court told

Alexander Blackman Image copyright PA
Image caption Alexander Blackman was "dismissed in disgrace" from the Royal Marines after serving with distinction for 15 years

A Royal Marine whose murder conviction for shooting dead an injured Afghan fighter was reduced to manslaughter "should be freed", a court has heard.

Sgt Alexander Blackman, 42, from Taunton, Somerset was jailed for life in 2013.

Earlier this month a Court Martial Appeal Court ruled the conviction should be "manslaughter on the ground of diminished responsibility".

A decision on a new sentence is due to be announced on Tuesday.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Alexander Blackman's wife Claire Blackman (centre) and Jonathan Goldberg (right, wearing red tie) were at the court hearing

Blackman - who was known as Marine A during the original trial process and fully identified when he was convicted - watched the proceedings via video link from prison.

The plea for the release of the Plymouth-based Royal Marine was made by his QC at the start of a sentencing hearing at the Court Martial Appeal Court in London.

Jonathan Goldberg, making submissions in mitigation, told Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas and the other judges that "at the forefront of our submission is the plea that he should be released today".

Image copyright PA
Image caption Supporters gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice before the sentence hearing

Mr Goldberg said "the incarceration of almost three-and-a-half years which he has already served is already too much for his crime".

He added: "We plead, as you know, that he should not as part of his punishment be ordered to be dismissed, let alone dismissed with disgrace, for that single word 'disgrace' has been for him a more bitter pill to swallow than anything else."

Mr Goldberg said the years Blackman had served in prison "equate to a determinate sentence of almost seven full years."

After the hearing, the Marine's wife Claire Blackman said: "We are obviously disappointed not to have a decision today, but we understand that the judges wish to consider this important matter with great care.

"We will patiently await their ruling."

Footage of the fatal shooting of the injured Taliban fighter, in September 2011, was captured on another marine's helmet camera.

Blackman shot an insurgent, who had been seriously injured in an attack by an Apache helicopter, in the chest at close range with a 9mm pistol.

During his trial, he denied murder and said he believed the victim was already dead.

A court martial heard Blackman used abusive language and said: "There you are. Shuffle off this mortal coil."

It was alleged he then turned to his comrades and said: "Obviously this doesn't go anywhere, fellas. I just broke the Geneva Convention."

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