1. ITV Report

Emails issue delays sniper hearing

Danny nightingale arriving this morning with wife Sally. Photo: Chris Ison/PA Wire

Secret emails allegedly leaked by a Ministry of Defence whistle-blower have delayed a court hearing in which an SAS sniper from Cheshire is due to discover if he will be prosecuted for illegally possessing a pistol and ammunition.

Sergeant Danny Nightingale, 38, attended Bulford Military Court Centre in Wiltshire for a preparatory hearing to determine whether he has won the fight to clear his name, or whether he will face a re-trial over the allegations.

But the case was adjourned after three hours as Sgt Nightingale's counsel, Simon McKay, told the court about emails leaked by someone within the MoD which he said appeared to show the Director of Service Prosecutions consulting the military "chain of command" - the Adjutant General's office - on whether or not to pursue the case against the soldier.

Mr McKay said: "There is an issue of disclosure. There appears to have been a meeting to discuss Sgt Nightingale.

"If the Director of Service Prosecutions was having second thoughts about the merits of a re-trial in this case and had a meeting with the individuals and his decision was ratified one way or another, that is important.

"In theory the effect of this meeting is rather like the Director of Public Prosecutions saying to the head of the Metropolitan Police: 'I'm thinking of charging one of your officers, I'd be interested in your views, thank you very much'."

He said the emails suggested the independence of the prosecutor's role had been "impugned".

However, prosecutors said there was nothing "improper" with the conduct alleged in the email.

Counsel Timothy Cray told the court: "If there was a basis, for a second, to think that the Director of Service Prosecutions said to the AG: 'Tell me what you want me to do, I will roll over and go with the army's view', then there is something in my friend's point."

But he said there was nothing in the evidence which suggested a breach of regulations.

He added the prosecution could also put forward the public interest in prosecuting the soldier, as the defence had suggested a public interest case for finding Mr Nightingale has no charge to answer.

Sgt Nightingale, from Crewe, was originally sentenced to 18 months' military detention after pleading guilty to illegally possessing a Glock 9mm pistol - a gift he received serving in Iraq - and more than 300 rounds of ammunition.

He successfully appealed against the sentence and was released after three weeks. Judges concluded the original 18-month sentence from November was too harsh and cut the term to 12 months, saying it should be suspended, prompting Sgt Nightingale's immediate release.

The Court of Appeal also quashed his conviction, saying a fresh court martial should be held.

His Honour Judge Blackett adjourned the case until Wednesday afternoon, when he is expected to decide whether or not to proceed with the preparatory hearing as originally planned.

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