Signs of 'moral regression' in Royal Marine unit missed before soldier killed Taliban fighter, according to official report

Sgt Alexander Blackman is serving a life sentence for murdering the man in Helmand province in 2011

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Warning signs that a Royal Marine unit was suffering from “moral regression, psychological strain and fatigue” were missed before one of its members shot dead a wounded Taliban fighter, according to redacted sections of an official report into the killing.

Sgt Alexander Blackman, 41, is serving a life sentence for murdering the man in Helmand province, Afghanistan, in 2011.

However campaigners claim his mental state was not fully taken into account during his court martial.

The executive summary of a Royal Navy’s report into what happened, marked “Official Sensitive”, was leaked to The Daily Mail. While the Government has released parts of the report, some sections were redacted.

These sections state that the commanding officer of J Company (J Coy), 42 Commando, had taken over command of the “sub-unit at short notice when the previous OC [officer commanding] was injured”.

“He had not therefore been prepared for the role and faced a considerable challenge in taking up this command in a demanding Area of Operations,” the report says.

“The face-to-face supervision by OC J Coy of Check Point Omar, where Sgt Blackman’s multiple was based, was insufficient to identify a number of warning signs that could have indicated that they were showing evidence of moral regression, psychological strain and fatigue.”

However it also adds: “Sgt Blackman allowed professional standards to slip to an unacceptably low level… His poor leadership was a significant contributory factor in the way the insurgent was treated by other members of the patrol.”

Blackman is believed to be the only British serviceperson convicted of a murder on the battlefield.

The Mail suggested he might have charged with manslaughter, rather than murder, if the report’s remarks about the supervision of the unit had been put before the court martial.

Defence minister Mark Lancaster said yesterday: “I share the concern of many for Mrs [Claire] Blackman and I am clear the MoD must not stand in the way of a fair and just consideration of this case.

“It is right we have undertaken this review to learn the lessons from this incident and I recognise the public interest in seeing the report in full. It is a full and frank assessment and contains detailed information about our tactics and operational security.”

However he added: “It is my view its unredacted release into the public domain would breach our ability to conduct campaigns in the future.”

Mr Lancaster agreed to provide a “confidential copy” of the report to the Criminal Case Review Commission.

Comments