Attorney General Dominic Grieve rejects case of jailed SAS man Danny Nightingale

 

Attorney General Dominic Grieve said today it would be “inappropriate” for him to review the decision to prosecute an SAS sergeant for illegal possession of a weapon.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond wrote to Mr Grieve today, asking him to review if proper consideration was given to the question of whether a prosecution of Sgt Danny Nightingale was in the public interest before the case was brought to court martial.

But a spokesman for the Attorney General's office responded in a statement: "It would be inappropriate for the Attorney General to review either the decision to prosecute or comment on the appropriateness of the sentence.

"That is a matter for the Court Martial Appeal Court, in due course."

Mr Grieve's response will come as a blow to the family of Sgt Nightingale, who had welcomed Mr Hammond's intervention earlier today.

Speaking before the Attorney General's statement, the soldier's wife Sally said the Defence Secretary's action had given her hope that her husband would be released in time for Christmas.

Sgt Nightingale, a father of two who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, is serving an 18-month sentence at the Military Corrective Training Centre in Colchester, Essex, after admitting possessing a prohibited firearm and ammunition.

He pleaded guilty at court martial to illegally possessing a 9mm Glock pistol which had been packed up and returned to him by colleagues after he had to leave Iraq in a hurry to help organise the funeral of two friends killed in action. He also admitted possessing ammunition.

The court martial heard that the gun was a gift from Iraqi soldiers he had been helping to train, but Sgt Nightingale, who had suffered medical problems affecting his memory, said he did not remember having it.

His lawyers plan to lodge an appeal against his conviction and sentence later this week, as well as applying for bail.

MPs will get an opportunity to raise concerns about his case with Solicitor General Oliver Heald this afternoon, after Canterbury MP Julian Brazier secured a debate in the House of Commons.

Although the MoD is unable to intervene directly in the legal case, it is understood that Mr Hammond's personal view is that it is in the public interest for any appeal to be heard as a matter of urgency.

Announcing Mr Hammond's intervention earlier today, a Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "The Defence Secretary has this morning asked the Attorney General for advice in relation to the case of Sgt Danny Nightingale.

"He has written to the Attorney General asking him to review whether the public interest test has been applied appropriately in this case."

Speaking before the statement by Mr Grieve's office, Mrs Nightingale said that she had been told Mr Hammond's request was "unprecedented".

"It has given me real hope that Danny's case will be urgently reviewed and that he may be home to his family before Christmas," she said.

Sgt Nightingale's solicitor Simon McKay said: "The Attorney General has supervisory responsibilities for the Service Prosecuting Authority that brought the case, and in theory the Attorney General could direct that the appeal is unopposed and/or whether there ought to be a retrial if the convictions are quashed."

The controversial case has sparked outrage from SAS veterans, and four special forces veterans, including the former commanding officer of the SAS, have written an open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, claiming Sgt Nightingale was "the victim of a monstrous miscarriage of justice".

The soldier's father, Humphrey Nightingale, said today that his son pleaded guilty in the expectation that he would be dealt with leniently.

Mr Nightingale told Sky News: "We knew Danny was not guilty but the judge made it quite clear that if he did not plead guilty, he would be sent to a civilian jail for a minimum of five years.

"Our hands were tied and we had no other option - Danny has a lovely wife and a young family.

"We expected a lenient sentence - maybe suspended - but instead he was sentenced to 18 months."

Mr McKay said that although the Attorney General declined to intervene, he was glad it had been brought to his attention.

"The next stage has to be to get the appeal in and see what the Service Prosecuting Authority, which is under his umbrella, has to say about it," he said.

He said that, at the moment, the Attorney General would find it hard to review the situation, as he does not know any details about the appeal that they plan to lodge later this week.

"He would need to see that, then reach a view as to how the matter is conducted thereafter," he said.

Mr McKay said they remain confident of the prospect of an appeal, adding: "I am working with William Clegg QC, one of the most experienced criminal silks in the country, and there is a strong degree of confidence."

Lieutenant Colonel Richard Williams, who was Sgt Nightingale's commanding officer in Iraq, said concerns about an "injustice" appeared to be being taken seriously by the Government.

Asked if he was disappointed with Mr Grieve's intervention, he told BBC Radio 4's The World At One: "Yes, and I'm not fully cognisant of how it sits constitutionally as we call it.

"But the fact that the Secretary of State has taken such an interest and asked the Attorney General to take such an interest indicates that what we are feeling, that there has been an injustice, is being taken seriously."

PA

News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform