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Sniper waiting for result of appeal
An SAS sniper is waiting to hear whether he has succeeded in an appeal against convictions for illegally possessing a pistol and ammunition.
Three appeal judges said they aimed to make a ruling on Danny Nightingale's case later, after hearing evidence at a Court of Appeal hearing in London.
Sergeant Nightingale, 38, of Crewe, Cheshire, was sentenced to 18 months' military detention by a judge sitting in a military court in early November 2012 - after admitting illegally possessing a Glock 9mm pistol and more than 300 rounds of ammunition.
The Court of Appeal concluded in late November that the sentence was too harsh. Three appeal judges cut the term to 12 months, said it should be suspended, and ordered Sgt Nightingale's release.
And lawyers representing Sgt Nightingale tried to quash the conviction at another Court of Appeal hearing.
They told three appeal judges that Sgt Nightingale had been placed under "undue pressure" to plead guilty by a barrister who represented him at the military court hearing. Lawyers argued that the conviction was therefore "unsafe" and Sgt Nightingale's guilty plea a "nullity".
William Clegg QC, for Sgt Nightingale, told three appeal judges today that the soldier had been put under "improper pressure" to plead guilty. Mr Clegg said Sgt Nightingale had been told by a barrister representing him at the military trial that he would get a five-year jail term if found guilty but might not go to prison if he pleaded guilty.
In written arguments presented to the three appeal judges, Mr Clegg said that "undue pressure" had been placed on Sgt Nightingale by barrister Ian Winter QC. But when outlining arguments orally, Mr Clegg said the "improper pressure" came when Mr Winter told Sgt Nightingale what the trial judge - Assistant Judge Advocate General Alastair McGrigor - "was saying". Mr Clegg told appeal judges that there was "no justifiable complaint" against Mr Winter giving "strong advice" on whether Sgt Nightingale should plead guilty or not guilty. He said the "wrong" occurred when Judge McGrigor "entered the arena".
"What he (Sgt Nightingale) was told by Mr Winter was 'If you plead not guilty and are found guilty you will get five years. If you plead guilty there is a very good chance you will not go to prison at all'," Mr Clegg told the appeal court. "What he (Mr Winter) was forced to say is 'This is what the judge is saying is going to happen'. This is where the improper pressure came from."
Mr Clegg added: "There is no justifiable complaint against counsel giving strong advice to somebody accused of criminal offences as to whether he should plead guilty or not guilty. What went wrong here was when the Assistant Judge Advocate General entered the arena and put in his own views." Mr Clegg said, in written arguments given to judges, that the "pressure" placed on Sgt Nightingale rendered his conviction "unsafe" and his guilty plea a "nullity".