Sergeant Danny Nightingale's family spoke of being overwhelmed yesterday as the Court of Appeal took the “unprecedented” step of announcing a review of his case before lawyers had even requested permission.
Just a day after Defence Secretary Philip Hammond called for an urgent review into the case of the jailed SAS soldier, his family arrived at the Royal Courts of Justice to lodge the paperwork for an appeal only to be told that a hearing had already been arranged in front of the Lord Chief Justice next week.
Shocked and tearful, Sgt Nightingale's wife Sally said: “It is totally overwhelming, very emotional. Something is actually going our way. It feels like all the way along we have had the worst case scenario and today it is the best case scenario.”
The dramatic turn of events comes after days of mounting furore and ministerial rows over the controversial case of the exemplary soldier who was given an 18-month sentence after a pistol, a gift from an Iraqi soldier he had trained that he insists he had forgotten about, was found in his quarters.
His family insist that the 37-year-old was “bullied” into a guilty plea at the court martial after being told that he could face a five year sentence if convicted but would be treated leniently if he admitted the illegal possession of a firearm and training ammunition.
Yesterday his father Humphrey reacted to the news of the appeal date: “It is unprecedented. For the Lord Chief Justice to preside over it himself and to have an appeal as quickly as this - we couldn't have asked for more.”
Simon McKay, Sgt Nightingale's solicitor, said the appeal against conviction would be made on the grounds that his guilty plea was not a genuine reflection of criminal culpability.