Published on 30 Nov 2012 Sections

SAS soldier ‘not alone in forgetting to hand in weapons’

The wife of SAS soldier Danny Nightingale, locked up by the army for not handing in a pistol and ammunition, says he is not the only soldier who will have forgotten to hand in weapons and bullets.

Sally Nightingale told us: “The intensity the guys work at, it means 30 minutes to go in and hand in ammunition – ammunition that might be in all sorts of pockets. 30 or 40 minutes handing stuff in, or 30 minutes having some sleep, seeing their family?

“Sometimes things slip. You can’t expect that kind of pressure without some kind of fallout.”

Danny Nightingale has been a free man 24 hours. But he was locked up for three weeks – by the army he loved – after a court martial sentenced him to 18 months’ detention for illegally possessing a pistol and ammunition.

Suspended sentence

Yesterday three judges at the high court granted Sgt Nightingale leave to appeal that conviction. And they cut his sentence to a 12-month suspended term – ordering him to be released.

Danny Nightingale and his wife Sally, who campaigned to get him freed, say he simply forgot he had the pistol, which he was given at the end of his tour of Iraq. It was packed up for him and sent home by someone else.

He’d suffered a brain injury running a charity marathon, which affected his memory. Mr Nightingale has also told Channel 4 News he has no recollection of how 300 rounds of ammunition came to be under his bed.

‘People become de-sensitised’

But he does say soldiers see ammunition differently to civilians.

“Not by any way of an excuse, people become de-sensitised to using a lot of ammunition. And there are rules and regulations set in place to ensure the wrong things don’t happen.

“But we certainly do handle a great deal of ammunition in our training, due to the nature of what we do – the way we maintain the skills and drills to the standard we do.’

In their interview the couple say Sgt Nightingale went to the court martial intending to plead not guilty, but they were effectively given no choice but to plead guilty – warned that if they fought the case, Sgt Nightingale would get five years in a civilian prison.

Danny and Sally Nightingale say they have lost faith in the military justice system, but not the civilian one. So they will be back at the court of appeal in the new year to fight to overturn his conviction.