One of Britain's most distinguished Royal Marines urged for leniency to be shown towards a fellow commando found guilty yesterday of killing a Taliban prisoner in Afghanistan when he is sentenced.
Maj Gen Thompson, who led 3 Commando Brigade during the Falklands War, said he believed the sentence handed to the marine should be between five and 10 years.
While he conceded the action was “totally wrong” and “totally unforgivable”, he told BBC Radio 4's Today it was important to understand the pressures faced by a battle-hardened soldier.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister David Cameron said today that the case should not “besmirch” the organisation's proud history while speaking to marines at Downing Street.
The sergeant, who has only been identified as Marine A in court after faces a mandatory life sentence for the Afghan insurgent's murder.
The convicted soldier was the first member of the British armed forces to be charged with murder in relation to the conflict in Afghanistan.
Two other marines, accused of the same charge over the killing two years ago, were acquitted following a court martial in which the centerpiece of evidence was a video film recorded by a helmet camera.
All three marines were seen in the film with the Afghan man, who had been severely wounded in a strike by an Apache helicopter gunship. In the footage the sergeant can be seen firing a bullet into the man's chest. He is heard saying: “There you are, shuffle off this mortal coil you c***. It’s nothing you wouldn’t have done to us. Obviously this don’t go anywhere fellas. I’ve just broken the Geneva Convention.”
Dismissing the argument that there should be less understanding for an experienced soldier doing such a thing, he said: “The more times you do tours in that filthy war, the more pressure there is on you.
"We don't know what sort of pressure he was under, however cool he may have sounded on that tape and how pre-meditated it may have sounded.
“He certainly shouldn't serve any less than five years, maybe 10.”
He said he expected the marine to be looked after by the military community, and stressed he "shouldn't be treated as a pariah".
"He should not be kicked out of the community as it were. I hope and I'm sure the Marines will support him and particularly his family through the years ahead,” he said.
“I don't mean that he should be kept in the Royal Marines; what I am saying is that he should not just be rejected and flung to the wolves as it were.
"I do not mean that he's forgiven and allowed back in. What I mean is that he shouldn't just be spat on and rejected."
The judge remanded Marine A in custody at the Military Court Centre in Bulford, Wiltshire on Friday ahead of his sentencing on 6 December. The judge said the court would determine the minimum sentence he would serve before being eligible for release.Reuse content