The retrial of SAS sniper Danny Nightingale for illegal possession of a weapon began today, and is expected to be used by the Army as an opportunity to reform the lax policies and attitudes prevalent in its most elite regiment.
Sgt Nightingale’s wife Sally has previously said he is being used as a “scapegoat” by the Ministry of Defence, which is pushing for a criminal conviction after he was found to have a Glock pistol and ammunition in his bedroom.
The Court of Appeal cleared Sgt Nightingale in March following a public outcry at his initial jail sentence, but the Service Prosecution Authority called a retrial.
Last week Sgt Nightingale announced he would have to sell his family home in order to pay for the legal costs of the two-week trial at the Bulford military court centre in Wiltshire.
He has argued that the pistol and ammunition were brought back to the UK from Iraq by colleagues, after he had had to return at short notice with the bodies of two fellow soldiers.
Current serving members of the SAS are expected to be called back from Afghanistan to give evidence alongside previously jailed ex-military personnel. It is understood that senior officials in the military are concerned by the current state of the SAS after investigations by the Royal Military Police.
Following an amnesty, it is reported that a skip was filled with illegal weapons, including a 66mm rocket launcher. Sgt Nightingale’s former housemate was jailed in 2011 for possessing a pistol, silencer, grenades and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
The Times quotes defence sources as saying that the Army chain of command is “uneasy about an apparent culture of impunity in the regiment”. They are apparently determined to “grip” the situation.
On 10 June Sergeant Nightingale was informed he is to be medically discharged from the Army in February 2014. He suffered brain damage after collapsing during a 200-mile trek in the Amazon rainforest.
His defence is expected to argue that, due to his medical condition, he could reasonably have forgotten he possessed the pistol and ammunition, which were given to him as a present by grateful Iraqi colleagues.