Marine A may need same prison protection as a paedophile, court hears

Lord Thomas said that balanced against the principle of open justice was the risk that Blackman could be attacked in prison

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The Independent Online

Sergeant Alexander Blackman, the veteran Marine convicted of murdering an Afghan rebel, may have to be given the same prison protection as a paedophile, the High Court has heard.

Blackman, who was previously known only as Marine A, was publicly named after Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas and two other judges at the High Court in London made a ruling earlier this month which led to his identity being revealed.

Giving the court's reasons for reaching its decision to lift an anonymity order in the case of Sergeant Blackman, previously known only as Marine A, Lord Thomas said the balance came "very firmly down on the side of open justice".

Lord Thomas said: "The case is of the greatest public interest, involving as it does a unique charge of murder against soldiers on military operations against a wounded detainee. There is, therefore, the greatest public interest in the whole of the proceedings being publicly reported."

In the case of Marine A, "there is the greatest public interest in knowing who he was and his background, given his conviction", said the judge, pointing out: "It would require an overwhelming case if a person convicted of murder in the course of an armed conflict were to remain anonymous."

Lord Thomas said that balanced against the principle of open justice was the risk that Blackman could be attacked in prison or following his release from prison after serving a life sentence.

He was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 10 years' imprisonment the day after the ruling relating to publication of his name.

"The prison authorities will be well aware of that risk and take steps to minimise it, as they do for other offenders at risk of attack in prison, such as paedophiles," the judge said.

"There is the threat, as assessed by JTAC (the Joint Terrorist Analysis Centre), to his family and to Marine A on his release under licence from his life sentence.

"It is a known risk. The MoD has taken steps in the past to protect the families of the Marines. There is nothing to suggest that they would not in the future.

"Balancing those considerations, we have no doubt that the balance comes very firmly down on the side of open justice; the identity of Marine A must be made public."

A court martial board in Bulford, Wiltshire found the 39-year-old former Royal Marine guilty of murdering the insurgent who had been seriously injured in an attack by an Apache helicopter in Helmand more than two years ago.

Two other Marines were acquitted. Charges against a further two were previously discontinued.

Blackman, who denied murder, had 15 years' experience in the Royal Marines, having joined in 1998, and was in charge of Command Post Omar in Helmand during Operation Herrick 14 in 2011.

Before a video of the murder came to light, Blackman was being considered for promotion to Colour Sergeant.

He shot the unknown insurgent in the chest but said he believed the man was already dead and he was taking out his anger on a corpse. He has said he feels ashamed at his actions, describing them as "a stupid lack of self-control and lapse in judgement".

As the fighter lies on the floor convulsing and struggling for breath, Sgt Blackman tells him: "There you are. Shuffle off this mortal coil you c***. It's nothing you wouldn't do to us."

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