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November 27, 2013

Marines ‘at risk’ if not granted life-long anonymity, court told

By Darren Boyle

Five Royal Marine Commandos including a sergeant convicted of murdering an Afghan insurgent should be granted life-long anonymity, a court heard today.

Hugh Tomlinson QC, who is representing three of the men – including the killer – said the situation was “unique”.

Addressing the Court Martial Appeal Court in London, Tomlinson said: “We say that the evidence establishes real and immediate risk. If it doesn't go that far it plainly establishes some risk, and that risk is to life and limb and also psychological harm."

During the trial of three of the servicemen at a court martial in Bulford, Wiltshire, an order prevented the names being made public.

On 8 November a court martial board found a commando, known only as Marine A, guilty of murdering the man in Helmand more than two years ago.

He is due to be sentenced on 6 December when he will learn his minimum tariff.

Two others, known only as Marines B and C, were acquitted. Charges against a further two Marines, referred to as D and E, were previously discontinued.

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Their challenge before the three judges relates to a ruling by Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett that the names of the defendants and those of Marines D and E, should be identified publicly.

The three Royal Marines on trial denied murdering the unknown captured Afghan national on or about 15 September 2011, contrary to section 42 of the Armed Forces Act 2006.

But a seven-strong court martial board, consisting of officers and non-commissioned officers, convicted one of the defendants following a two-week trial.

Marine A shot the man in the chest at close range with a 9mm pistol then quoted a phrase from Shakespeare as the man convulsed and died in front of him.

''There you are. Shuffle off this mortal coil, you c***. It's nothing you wouldn't do to us,'' Marine A told the man.

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

The execution was filmed by a camera mounted on the helmet of Marine B.

Marines B and C were alleged to have been ''party to the killing'' and ''encouraged and assisted'' Marine A in committing the murder, but they were cleared.

Judge Blackett, when ruling that the anonymity order should be lifted, said: "The principle of open justice is immutable and must only be restricted where either the administration of justice would be seriously affected without the grant of an order for anonymity or there would be a real and immediate risk to the personnel were anonymity not granted.

"This is not a case relating to the administration of justice and I am not satisfied that those who seek a continuance of the anonymity order have demonstrated that the fear that the marines' lives will be at risk is objectively well founded."

The order remains in force pending determination of the issue by the Court Martial Appeal Court.

 

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