Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Blackman Case

The Royal Courts of Justice, London
The Daily Mail is engaged in a campaign to unravel the final court-martial conviction of a British Marine. In its latest salvo, the paper notes:
  • The Afghan fighter that [Sgt. Alexander Wayne] Blackman shot had been mortally wounded; 
  • Two of his comrades had been blown up, a third tortured and the limbs of mutilated soldiers hung from a tree by the Taliban; 
  • His commanding officer resigned in disgust at his treatment. 
And yesterday it also emerged that: 
  • The jury trying Blackman was split 5-2 and put under pressure to convict; 
  • Some were desk-job sailors without experience of battle; 
  • The defence team blundered by failing to fight for a manslaughter conviction; 
  • The Royal Navy is plotting a ‘media strategy’ to hush up findings of failures by senior commanders; 
  • Retired military chiefs including Lord Dannatt called for the case to be re-examined.
The case has already been through the appellate process. The continuing campaign is troubling because it represents an assault on the integrity of that process. The first three bullets do not go to whether there was legal error. Of the second batch of five bullets, a 5-2 vote suffices to convict. "Pressure to convict" needs to be explained. If there was improper pressure, was the point raised on appeal, and if not, why not? If the defence team blundered, as another bullet claims, was the point raised as ineffective assistance of counsel, and if so, what did the court have to say about it? How would failures by senior commanders justify Sgt. Blackman's conduct?

Click here for Judge Advocate General His Honour Judge Jeff Blackett's 2013 remarks on sentencing. The unanimous decision of the Court Martial Appeal Court in R. v. Blackman [2014] EWCA Crim 1029, per the Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, can be found here.

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