Madness or just another day in the battlefield: A conflict of evidence? by Sammy McNally

Like the ongoing murderous turmoil in Afghanistan, the Alexander Blackman story continues to run and run.
Blackman , the Royal marine who had his murder conviction for his killing of a Taliban fighter  in 2013 reduced to manslaughter, on the grounds of diminished responsibility in March this year, continues to fascinate the  public – with his lawyer Jonathan Goldberg (QC)  even suggesting that a Hollywood film could be in the offing and with speculation in the media as to the casting options.
What perhaps marks the case out from other controversial military incidents is the fact that the killing was filmed by a fellow soldier and although the released coverage is indeed shocking the actual footage of the killing itself has not been released – having been described in the original court case in 2013 as having unsurpassed “radicalisation potential”. Presumably not a view the current British government would publicly agree with – given their belief that British foreign policy is unlinked
to radicalisation – and their sensitivities in the wake of the recent terrorist outrages in Manchester and London.
But whatever about the controversy, in general, the media coverage of the Blackman conviction for murder has been very supportive of him, with the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph involved in the campaign to secure his release and the success of his appeal and his release from prison being widely welcomed.
His release comes against the background of protests by Armed forces veterans for the protection of military personnel from prosecution, public criticism  from British government ministers about the (allegedly) disproportionate number of enquiries into the conduct of soldiers in Northern Ireland during the ‘The Troubles’ and the  political  support in Westminster for a statute of limitations on  the prosecution of military.
On the day of Blackman’s successful appeal, Panorama ( ) broadcast a detailed review of the events surrounding the killing, including in depth interviews with those in Blackman’s platoon and the wider J Company who were involved in the operation.
The Panorama programme highlighted the incredible bravery and restraint which the soldiers were expected to exercise in almost impossible circumstances whilst trying to secure the most dangerous part of Helmand Province against a background of what was in effect a Western withdrawal and a failed mission.
But what was most marked about the Panorama programme was the presentation of testimony by Blackman’s military colleagues, which appeared to directly contradict the evidence given to the Appeal Court by expert witness for Blackman, Neil Greenberg, a professor of  mental health at King’s College London, who had told the court:
“that given Blackman’s previous exemplary record and behaviour, there was “no other explanation” for his behaviour on the day in question other than that he was suffering from adjustment disorder.”  (Daily Telegraph).
But  the testimony given in the programme by Blackman’s colleagues in his platoon and J company suggested that the killing did indeed have an alternative explanation and that his killing of the Taliban fighter was the desired outcome, of not just Blackman, but of all those present at the scene (and also those  in radio communication with Blackman).  Indeed, the solders openly spoke of a conspiracy amongst themselves to kill the Taliban fighter with apparently no regard for their own risk of prosecution (private or public).
The Panorama interviews portrayed Blackman’s actions as consistent with the culture within the platoon (and at least part of the wider J Company) and  portrayed the shooting of wounded fighters (in Afghanistan and elsewhere) as something the soldiers believed to be consistent with them carrying out their combat roles. The programme also offered a further possible explanation for the shooting by Blackman – namely that he feared – that younger members of the platoon were about to shoot the Taliban fighter themselves and Blackman believed that as the senior soldier it was his responsibility to do the killing himself.
Chris Terrill who wrote and presented the Panorama programme, stated that the testimony by the soldiers were the first public interviews they had given – suggesting that perhaps the evidence they gave in the programme was not available to the Appeal Court.
But whether the evidence was available or not it certainly seems to contradict the main expert witness for Blackman’s defence and simply adds to the controversy and debate of a case which author Fredrick Forsyth described as Britain’s Dreyfus case.

3 Responses to Madness or just another day in the battlefield: A conflict of evidence? by Sammy McNally

  1. billy June 6, 2017 at 2:47 pm #

    should the peelers not have open fire the other night in london.

  2. fiosrach June 6, 2017 at 4:03 pm #

    Did they not shoot UK citizens?

  3. Brian Patterson June 6, 2017 at 6:46 pm #

    There is a word of difference between killing someone who is in the process of cutting someone’s throat, and that of executing a wounded prisoner. But indeed from an intelligence point of view it would have been more profitable and useful to take the London Jihadists alive.