Ministers at odds over case of SAS soldier jailed for possessing gun

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The Independent Online

The campaign to free the SAS soldier Sergeant Danny Nightingale sparked a public row between ministers yesterday, as the Attorney-General refused to intervene in the case.

Dominic Grieve, below, was forced to issue a statement insisting it "would undermine the justice system" for him to become involved in legal proceedings, after the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond raised the hopes of Sgt Nightingale's wife Sally by asking him to review the case.

Mr Grieve's public insistence that he does not have the power to act will enrage Tory activists who already believe that the Attorney-General is too liberal. The political spat came as the SAS soldier's former commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Williams, called on the Government to end this "appalling miscarriage of justice".

There has been mounting outrage over the jailing of the soldier after he was sentenced to 18 months by a court martial for being found with a pistol, which was sent home from Iraq among his possessions and he says he had forgotten about.

Today his lawyers are planning to lodge an appeal at the High Court.

David Cameron's spokesman said the Prime Minister was sympathetic to the Nightingale family, but it was a "case where due process has to be followed".

Yesterday, Sgt Nightingale's solicitor Simon McKay said his plea was not a genuine reflection of his guilt as he had been offered the choice of facing five years in jail if convicted, whereas the prosecution and judge made strong suggestions that he would not face custody after a guilty plea. "His guilty plea was a selfless act to minimise the stress on his family," he said.