Marine A: Alexander Blackman's murder conviction changed to manslaughter

A Royal Marine who shot an injured Taliban fighter in Afghanistan has had his murder conviction changed to manslaughter.

Alexander Blackman, 42, shot the insurgent in Helmand province in 2011 and was convicted of murder two years later.

Five judges sitting at the Court Martial Appeal Court in London have replaced that conviction with manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

The judges found the shooting was a result of a mental illness - an "adjustment disorder".

Originally, Blackman, known as Marine A, was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 10 years - but this was later cut to eight years on appeal due to the combat stress he had been suffering at the time.

The sentence he now has to serve will be decided at a further hearing, which has not yet been scheduled.

Blackman's wife Claire said she was "delighted" by the decision, adding that it "much better reflects the circumstances that my husband found himself in during that terrible tour of Afghanistan".

She said: "We must now hope to secure a significant reduction in the sentence."

Author Frederick Forsyth, who has campaigned for Blackman's release, added: "It's not over yet. We always wanted justice - a very elusive word, much used, seldom achieved, it's a two-bladed weapon.

"Firstly, one blade to get a man who should never have been in prison out of prison; secondly, we go after those people who wrongly, and I think villainously, put him there."

The shooting was captured on a camera mounted on the helmet of another Royal Marine, who went with Blackman to find the Taliban fighter who had been wounded by an Apache helicopter.

Footage shows Blackman and three colleagues dragging the injured insurgent behind the cover of bushes.

After shooting the Afghan in the chest at point blank range, Blackman can be heard saying: "There you are, shuffle of this mortal coil you ****"

He adds: "Obviously this doesn't go anywhere fellas... I've just broken the Geneva Convention."

In his original court martial, Blackman claimed he had thought the Afghan was already dead, but in the video the body visibly twitches after the shot.

In Wednesday's ruling, the judges said the former sergeant "developed a hatred for the Taliban and a desire for revenge" after suffering from "exceptional stressors" in Afghanistan.

They added: "Given his prior exemplary conduct, we have concluded that it was the combination of the stressors, the other matters to which we have referred and his adjustment disorder that substantially impaired his ability to form a rational judgment."

The "key issue" was whether it was a "cold-blooded execution", as the court martial board had concluded, or the result of "a substantial impairment of his ability to form a rational judgement or exercise self-control arising from his adjustment disorder".

The judges ruled: "In our view, the adjustment disorder had put the appellant in the state of mind to kill, but the fact that he acted with apparent careful thought as to how to set about the killing had to be seen within the overarching framework of the disorder which had substantially impaired his ability to form a rational judgement."

The appeal was granted in December 2016 after new evidence of Blackman's mental state was revealed.

Campaigners also raised concerns that the original court martial had been given no option of manslaughter.