Former Archbishop of Canterbury says he is 'praying' for Marine A's release

Rozina Sabur
A banner in support of British Sergeant Alexander Blackman hangs from a fence outside the Royal Courts of Justice - 2017 Getty Images

The former Archbishop of Canterbury has said he is praying for Marine A's release, arguing that the soldier has been punished enough for a split second decision made in the "heat and dust of battle".

George Carey, who himself served in the armed forces, argued ahead of Sergeant Alexander Blackman's sentencing on Tuesday that it was "hard to understand the pressures" soldiers endured "unless you have walked a mile in their shoes".

Blackman, 42, better known as Marine A, from Taunton in Somerset, was convicted of murder in 2013 for shooting dead a wounded Taliban insurgent. Earlier this year, judges overturned this verdict and replaced it with a conviction of manslaughter. 

Former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey once served in the armed forces Credit: Andrew Crowley for the Telegraph 

Lord Carey said: "I understand this man was a magnificent soldier with a long and distinguished record of service to the Queen. 

"I have served myself in the armed forces and know that in the heat and dust of battle, split second decisions must be made and expediency can sometimes overcome strict morality even for the best of men. And unless you have walked a mile in their shoes it is hard to understand the pressures. 

"The long prison sentence he has already served seems long enough both for him and his dignified wife, and I pray for his release".

The former Archbishop, who served in Iraq as a radio operator in the Royal Air Force in the 1950s, added: "We need men like this at this time."

A panel of five judges at the Court Martial Appeal Court are due to re-sentence Blackman for diminished responsibility manslaughter on Tuesday.

The judges were due to deliver their decision on Friday but postponed it until this week, meaning the former marine spent mother's day weekend in prison.

Alexander Blackman will be given his new sentence on Tuesday Credit: Andrew Parsons /PA 

Marine A's new legal team, led by Jonathan Goldberg QC, told judges on Friday that "at the forefront of our submission is the plea that he should be released today".

Mr Goldberg added: "the incarceration of almost three and a half years which he has already served is already too much for his crime".

The judges had previously ruled that Blackman was suffering from an "abnormality of mental functioning" at the time of the incident.

In court last week the soldier's wife Claire Blackman said she had only been together for four and a half years with her husband for the duration of their eight year marriage because he has either been fighting for his country or in jail.

Claire Blackman has campaigned for her husband's release Credit: Geoff Pugh for the Telegraph 

"He is incredibly kind, thoughtful and generous," she said. "He is the first to help anybody in need.

"The arrest and conviction was a huge shock," she added. "But it was the dismissal in disgrace that was the hardest aspect of all to bear. I have often said if you cut my husband in half you would see a Royal Marine all the way through him."

During the appeal which overturned the murder conviction, judges found that the incident was the result of a mental illness - an "adjustment disorder".

The judges ruled that the marine's ability to "form a rational judgment" was "substantially impaired".

Marine A, Sgt Alexander Blackman, in pictures

Blackman shot the insurgent, who had been seriously injured in an attack by an Apache helicopter, in the chest at close range with a 9mm pistol before quoting a phrase from Shakespeare as the man convulsed and died in front of him.

He told him: "There you are. Shuffle off this mortal coil, you c---. It's nothing you wouldn't do to us."

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

The shooting was captured on a camera mounted on the helmet of another Royal Marine.

During his trial, Blackman, who denied murder, said he believed the victim was already dead and he was taking out his anger on a corpse.

Profile | Sgt Alexander Blackman, known as Marine A

 

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