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news round-up 17.3.17

(Posted on 16/03/17)


Marine A guilty of manslaughter, not murder:

A Royal Marine who shot dead a seriously wounded Taliban prisoner in Afghanistan has had his murder conviction quashed and replaced with one of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Since 2013, Alexander Blackman has been serving a life sentence in a civilian prison. He will be re-sentenced within weeks and could be released.

The result of the appeal “much better reflected the circumstances that my husband found himself in during that terrible tour of Afghanistan,” said his wife Claire outside the Royal Courts of Justice. “We must now hope to secure a significant reduction in the sentence.” 

“The appellant suffered from quite exceptional stressors... during the time of that deployment which increasingly impacted on him the longer he was in command at CP [command post] Omar,” the judges ruled. “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.

“There can be little doubt that on 15 September 2011 the appellant was angry and vengeful and had a considerable degree of hatred for the wounded insurgent. On prior deployments, similar emotions had been controlled by him.

“The appellant’s decision to kill was probably impulsive and the adjustment disorder had led to an abnormality of mental functioning that substantially impaired his ability to exercise self-control.”

The original court martial had heard how Blackman had shot the helpless man in the chest, telling him: “There you are, shuffle off this mortal coil, you cunt. It’s nothing you wouldn’t do to us.” Turning to colleagues, he had told them: “Obviously, this doesn’t go anywhere fellas. I’ve just broken the Geneva convention.”

Margaret Pereira, forensic scientist, 1928 - 2016.

A pioneering forensic scientist died recently after a short illness. Long before the development of DNA profiling, Margaret Pereira developed the Nicholls and Pereira, ‘N&P’, method for typing minute bloodstains. (Lewis Nicholls was director of the laboratory.)

She joined the Metropolitan Police Forensic Science Laboratory in 1947 and was involved in high-profile cases in the South-East including the murder of Lord Lucan’s nanny in 1974. She was President of the British Academy of Forensic Sciences and of the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences.

In 1977 Pereira was made director of the Home Counties Forensic Science Laboratory in Aldermaston and, in 1982, the last controller of the Forensic Science Service, also sorely missed.