SAS soldier Danny Nightingale freed after appeal

Nightingale admitted illegally possessing a Glock 9mm pistol and more than 300 rounds of ammunition at a court martial

The SAS soldier locked up over a pistol he kept as a souvenir of a tour of duty walked free tonight after High Court judges suspended his sentence.

Danny Nightingale was embraced by his wife, who has led the campaign to have him freed, in the lobby of the court after he was told that the original sentence of 18 months’ detention would also be cut to 12. The 37-year-old, who was described as an “exceptionally good soldier” by former colleagues, said he was “humbled” by the public reaction.

Speaking to supporters and journalists outside the High Court in London this evening, Mr Nightingale said: “Thank you to the great British public. They have been absolutely wonderful in their support. It has just been extremely humbling. Very, very humbling.

And, soon after Sgt. Nightingale left the High Court, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond announced that he was considering an amnesty on illegally held weapons.

Sally Nightingale, who has led the campaign to have her husband freed, wept in court as the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, Mr Justice Fulford and Mr Justice Bean gave their decision.

Speaking afterwards, she said she had not allowed herself to hope that Sgt Nightingale would be home to his family for Christmas. She said: “It can only be good for all the troops out there fighting for our country to see justice has been done.”

During a two-hour hearing in the Court Martial Appeal Court, the judges considered separately whether or not to allow him to appeal his conviction and whether or not to amend his sentence. They decided in his favour and his appeal against the conviction itself will be heard at a later date.

Sgt. Nightingale, who is a specially trained medic with his unit, was originally sentenced to military detention earlier this month by a judge sitting in a military court after admitting illegally possessing a Glock 9mm pistol and more than 300 rounds of ammunition.

He was given the weapon as a leaving present by a unit of Iraq Special Forces he was training and said he had intended to have it decommissioned and to keep it as a trophy. The court heard that during a tour of duty, Sgt. Nightingale’s unit was being ordered to battle suspected suicide bombers on a nightly basis and had taken casualties; including a close friend of his.

The court also heard a character reference from his former commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Richard Williams, who said that he stood out among his comrades as an educated and caring man. He said that Sgt. Nightingale had put his own life at risk numerous times and had saved many others’ lives.

He also described how Sgt. Nightingale invented a revolutionary type of dressing now used to treat chest wounds across the Armed Forces.

William Clegg QC, representing Sgt. Nightingale, said that his client has committed “serious offences” which crossed the “custody threshold”. But he argued that his client was advised to plead guilty in his initial trial because his lawyers were lead to believe by the judge that that was he only course of action which attract any leniency in sentencing.

He said: “An indication of how the public might interpret his duty and service while in the Army is perhaps reflected by a petition of 107,000 names…[it reflects] the esteem with which this regiment [the SAS] is held by the country and the consciousness of its service.

“If ever there was an exceptional case where an immediate period of detention was not necessary, this is it.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
people
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn