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Sniper 'pressured to plead guilty'
An SAS sniper jailed for illegally possessing a pistol and ammunition has tried to persuade the Court of Appeal to overturn his convictions.
Sergeant Danny Nightingale, of Crewe, Cheshire, was sentenced to 18 months military detention by a judge sitting in a military court in early November, 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.
Lawyers representing Sgt Nightingale, 38, tried to quash the conviction at another Court of Appeal hearing in London.
They told three appeal judges that Sgt Nightingale was 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 was a "nullity".
William Clegg QC, for Sgt Nightingale, told Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, Mr Justice Mackay and Mr Justice Sweeney that the barrister had fallen "into error".
"He appeals against his conviction on the ground that undue pressure was placed on him to plead guilty by his then counsel, Mr Ian Winter QC," said Mr Clegg. "It is submitted that leading counsel fell into error and placed undue pressure on the applicant."
At the November appeal hearing, lawyers said Sgt Nightingale had pleaded guilty because he thought that any sentence would be suspended. But prosecutors argued at that hearing that the convictions were "not unsafe" and should not be overturned. The November appeal hearing was told that the gun had been a gift from Iraqi special forces soldiers Sgt Nightingale had trained. Sgt Nightingale planned to have the weapon decommissioned and keep it as a trophy, judges heard.
But, lawyers said, he appeared to have put it in a cupboard in Army accommodation in Hereford on a "very hectic day" while preparing to deploy to Afghanistan. Sgt Nightingale, whose accommodation was not on the SAS base at Hereford, said he had not "appreciated" that he had the weapon.
Judges adjourned the hearing after taking evidence from lawyers representing Sgt Nightingale and prosecutors. They said they aimed to deliver a ruling at 3pm.