Marine A

AlexBlackman

In March 2017 after a legal battle lasting almost 2 years, Mr Goldberg QC succeeded in winning on appeal the historic case of Marine A, acting Colour Sergeant Alexander Blackman of the Royal Marines. He had been convicted by court-martial in 2013 of murdering a wounded Taliban terrorist on a battlefield in Afghanistan. He had been sentenced to life imprisonment together with reduction to the ranks and dismissal from the Armed Forces with disgrace. An appeal against conviction brought in 2014 by his old legal team had failed completely.

Following a public campaign waged by his indomitable wife Claire and supported notably by Richard Drax MP and the author Frederick Forsyth, and a change of counsel to Mr Goldberg QC leading Mr Jeffrey Israel and Mr Senghin Kong, all acting on bar direct access, a report of 100 pages accompanied by 6 volumes of exhibits was written by the new counsel and submitted to the Criminal Cases Review Commission in December 2015.

Once an appeal has been tried and failed, this body represents the only possible route to challenge a miscarriage of justice. However, the CCRC refer less than 3% annually of all the cases they receive back to the Court of Appeal for a new hearing, and therefore it is a formidable mountain to climb. Mr Goldberg QC and his juniors identified no less than eight grounds on which they felt themselves duty bound to criticise the conduct of the court-martial by the Judge Advocate General, the prosecution, and the old defence team alike. These were later refined to six grounds of appeal once in the Court of Appeal. 

In December 2016 in their Statement of Reasons of some 70 pages, the CCRC upheld three of these grounds as constituting a real possibility that the Court of Appeal would overturn the murder verdict, and referred the case back to the Court of Appeal. The three grounds referred by the CCRC were the new psychiatric evidence, the failure of the JAG to leave unlawful act manslaughter to the board, and incompetence of the trial defence counsel. Shortly thereafter an expedited hearing was ordered by the Lord Chief Justice on the first of these grounds only, namely the psychiatric ground, on the basis that if this ground failed there would then need to be a much longer future hearing on appeal to decide the remaining five grounds.

Since however this first ground succeeded to reduce murder to manslaughter, thus leading to the Sergeant`s almost immediate release from prison and the quashing of his life sentence, there was no need to litigate the remaining grounds at all. In addition, his dismissal with disgrace from the Armed Forces was rescinded to simple dismissal, and his reduction to the ranks was quashed, such that he remains entitled again to call himself Sgt and he retains his pension rights.

Reflecting the fact this case is of great legal and public interest and importance generally, Mr Goldberg`s full report to the CCRC and the CCRC Statement of Reasons for sending the case back to the Court of Appeal, are both attached below.

CCRC Full Report                         CCRC Statement of Reasons                         Read More