A Royal Marine found guilty of murdering an injured Afghan fighter has won a sentence reduction because of the combat stress disorder he was suffering at the time.
Although the Court Martial Appeal Court rejected a conviction challenge by Sergeant Alexander Blackman, three leading judges cut his minimum term from ten to eight years – the least time he must now serve before becoming eligible to apply for parole.
Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, Sir Brian Leveson and Lady Justice Hallett, giving their ruling in London, said that the particular stresses affecting Blackman should have been "accorded greater weight as a mitigating factor" when he was sentenced by a court martial in Bulford, Wiltshire, following his conviction last November.
Allowing an appeal against sentence, Lord Thomas said: "On all the evidence before us it is clear that in the events surrounding the murder of the insurgent, the appellant acted entirely out of character and was suffering from combat stress disorder."
As well as the imposition of a life sentence Blackman, now 39, was "dismissed with disgrace" from the Royal Marines after he had served with distinction for 15 years, including tours of Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland.
The killing happened in Helmand province in 2011 while Blackman, who is known as Al, was serving with Plymouth-based 42 Commando.
He shot the Afghan, who had been seriously injured in an attack by an Apache helicopter, in the chest at close range with a 9mm pistol before quoting a phrase from Shakespeare as the man convulsed and died in front of him.
Blackman told him: "There you are. Shuffle off this mortal coil. It's nothing you wouldn't do to us."
He then turned to comrades and said: "Obviously this doesn't go anywhere, fellas. I just broke the Geneva Convention."
During the trial Blackman was known as Marine A, and his junior colleagues – who were both cleared – as Marines B and C.
They were later named as Corporal Christopher Watson and Marine Jack Hammond. The shooting was captured on a camera mounted on the helmet of Corporal Watson.
Blackman, who denied murder, said he believed the victim was already dead and he was taking out his anger on a corpse.
Reducing the minimum term, Lord Thomas said: "We attach particular importance to the evidence in relation to the remoteness of the command post."