A Royal Marine jailed for the murder of a Taliban insurgent let his professional standards “slip to an unacceptably low level” and showed “poor leadership”, an internal review has found.
The Royal Navy review looked at events surrounding the shooting of a wounded captive by Sergeant Alexander Blackman in Helmand province, Afghanistan, in September 2011.
Blackman quoted Shakespeare as he shot his victim in the chest at close range with a 9mm pistol after the Afghan had been seriously injured in an attack by an Apache helicopter.
He is serving a minimum eight-year jail sentence after becoming the first British serviceman to be convicted of murder on the battlefield since the Second World War by a court martial.
(How Channel 4 News reported Alexander Blackman’s conviction in November 2013; warning: this report contains footage at the beginning that some may find disturbing)
The Navy released a redacted, 12-page executive summary of the review on the same day Blackman’s case will be debated in the Commons, amid claims he has been scapegoated for wider failings in Afghanistan.
Vice Admiral Sir Philip Jones, fleet commander of the Royal Navy, said it was “not appropriate” to release the internal review in full because it contained “information considered sensitive from an operational, security and personal perspective”. He added: “What happened on September 15 2011 was not consistent with the ethos, values and standards of the Royal Marines.”
The review found Blackman “allowed professional standards to slip to an unacceptably low level” and that “his poor leadership was a significant contributory factor in the way the insurgent was treated by other members of the patrol”.
It added: “Group conformity and the patrol’s positive past experiences of Sgt Blackman may also have contributed. Moral disengagement on the part of Sgt Blackman and the members of his multiple was a significant contributory factor in the handling and shooting of the insurgent.
“The difficulty experienced by Sgt Blackman, in changing from a mindset which required him to kill an enemy to one which accepted having to administer first aid to an enemy in order to try and save his life, was a contributory factor in his treatment of the insurgent.”
Footage from another marine’s helmet-mounted camera showed Blackman shooting the Afghan prisoner in the chest with his pistol. Blackman was then heard telling him: “There you are. Shuffle off this mortal coil, you c***. 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 at Bulford court martial centre in Wiltshire two years ago, Blackman was known as Marine A. He denied murder, saying he believed the victim was already dead and he was taking out his anger on a corpse.
Blackman, of Taunton, Somerset was convicted of murder and jailed for a minimum of 10 years. His conviction challenge was rejected by the court martial appeal court, although his minimum term was cut to eight years because of the combat stress disorder he was suffering at the time of the incident.
Blackman’s supporters say he should have been convicted of manslaughter, not murder, and are calling for a review. His case will be raised by Conservative MP Richard Drax in the Commons on Wednesday.
A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “The MoD followed and supported the legal process throughout. This involved a full criminal investigation and a court martial where witnesses were called by both the independent Service Prosecution Authority and defence counsel.
“We respect the authority and decision of the court and would, of course, co-operate fully with any future legal process. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”