The Blackman Appeal
… by Michael Shrimpton
Sergeant Alexander Blackman’s appeal against his outrageous conviction was heard this week by the Courts Martial Appeals Court. This is simply another name for the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal, i.e., it is a civil court, operating to a lower ethical level with respect than the military.
The appeal arguments, advanced by Anthony Berry QC, seemed to me with respect to miss the point. They concentrated on procedural points, based on that terrorists’ charter, the European Convention of Human Rights.
It was not designed to assist the British military and I doubt my learned friend will get much purchase from it in this case. There were also entirely sensible submissions in mitigation of the sentence, which as readers will recall was savage, with a minimum of 10 years to be served.
The point, surely, is that Sgt Blackman RM was entirely justified in slotting the Taliban terrorist in the first place. The prosecution failed to arrange for an autopsy and presented no direct medical evidence at all, that is to say they could not exclude the possibility that the wounded terrorist in question was mortally wounded. Given that he had just been in combat and apparently had been strafed by an Apache attack helicopter this was not at all unlikely.
Unless the prosecution could show that (1) the terrorist might reasonably have been expected to survive (2) he could be got to a hospital in a reasonable time (a proper, clean military hospital that is, not a dirty NHS hospital, where he would probably have died anyway) and (3) that Sgt Blackman knew or ought to have known these facts, then a prosecution should not have been contemplated.
Because the prosecution was sloppily prepared we still don’t know the nature and extent of the terrorist’s wounds. That is a disgrace.
Finishing off a mortally wounded enemy is acceptable conduct under the Laws and Customs of War. It does not matter whether it is done out of charity or to allow a patrol to move on. The video footage suggests that Sgt Blackman was not feeling particularly charitable towards the terrorist at that time, nor had he any reason to.
Taliban treatment of our wounded, and the bodies of our dead, has been nothing short of barbarous, calling into question our adherence to outdated UN conventions which do not require reciprocity.
Whatever an individual soldier’s feelings, shooting a mortally wounded enemy is an act of kindness. They are highly likely to be in severe pain and a quick end is usually merciful. Soldiers are not doctors and are not required to exercise fine judgments. To call it murder is both a moral and a legal outrage, whatever the technicalities of the law may be as regards acceleration of death.
Human compassion was the clear motivation of Canadian Captain Robert Semrau, convicted of disgraceful conduct in 2010 in another shocking miscarriage of justice. Interviewed on British TV this week he came across as a competent and humane officer.
The terrorist he shot was clearly beyond help and would have been in indescribable pain, having taken what sounds like a cannon round in the stomach. There were bits missing as well. Canadians can take pride in Captain Semrau and his conviction too should be overturned.
The Courts Martial Appeal Court has reserved judgment. They will probably dismiss the appeal against conviction and reduce the sentence (i.e. minimum time to be served – in the UK the sentence for murder is fixed by law). This would not be enough. Sgt Blackman should be exonerated completely, restored to the ranks and promoted.
When we get a sensible government, possibly as early as June, correcting this terrible injustice should be high on the list of priorities, along with abolishing the Service Prosecuting Authority, which has disgraced itself over the Nightingale and Blackman cases. We should go back to the old system of courts martial.
The current system, forced on Britain by the European Court of Human Rights, has been a total and utter failure, and has lost all credibility. The emphasis, with respect, appears to be not so much on military justice, as on giving aid and comfort to the terrorist enemy.
Ideally, a couple of the prosecutors should be shot, although there would be bound to be complaints and such a course might prove controversial. There would be no shortage of volunteers for the firing parties however.
The Evans Case
Hot on the heels of the Blackman appeal came the dramatic news of the triumphant acquittal of Nigel Evans, the gay Tory MP wrongly accused of rape in a homophobic, politically motivated prosecution which may have inflicted terminal damage on the Crown Prosecution Service. This is the same idiot body (no offense) which decided to prosecute me of course!
The case has also inflicted further heavy damage on the reputation of the police, who were caught out in a blatant lie. They asserted that the gay ‘victims’ had come forward. The sordid truth is that in most of the cases the police had pressured them into giving statements, falsely stating that there was an obligation on them to do so. Under English law a witness can be compelled to attend court, but there is no compulsion to give a statement.
There are few more disreputable prosecution tactics than bundling, i.e. combing a series of weak allegations in order to try and make a case. Why the indictment in R v. Evans was not severed I do not know, nor can I understand with respect why such an obviously hopeless case was not chucked out at half time.
I raised the issue of the defense costs with a number of Tory MPs following the acquittal. Nigel has now quantified these at around $200,000, which the CPS should clearly pay. If you bring a hopeless prosecution you should pay after you’ve lost. Fair’s fair! The law preventing recovery of defense costs from central funds should be repealed retrospectively. It was an outrageous change, pushed by the CPS and the Cabinet Office.
UK law on sexual offenses should be made compliant with best legal standards. There ought to be a requirement for corroboration and a statute of limitations. The current crop of silly prosecutions is clearly a distraction strategy, seeking to divert attention away from the Cabinet Office’s involvement in the Savile Pedophile Ring.
Black Box Ping Pong over MH-370
A commenter once asked for each of my columns to be “coherent,” in the sense that each topic covered should be related. Why? There’s a lot going on at the moment and I like to update readers with developments on topics covered in previous columns.
For the avoidance of doubt MH370 is not related to the above topics in any way, save that each involves battling against the Forces of Evil: the PLA-Navy in the case of Flight 370, the Service Prosecuting Authority in the case of Sgt Blackman and the CPS in the case of Nigel Evans MP.
The search for the MH-370 black boxes, thousands of miles from where the plane was actually shot down, is increasingly resembling a Monty Python sketch. The only thing missing is a parrot.
Memo to the Chinese: there are only two black boxes on a 777, the Flight Data Recorder, and the Cockpit Voice Recorder, and they are normally found together! I’ve heard of wreckage being spread, but not over 350 miles! I’ve started to lose count. I think we’re now up to six separate transmitters pinging away.
That PLA-Air Force Il-76 has been busy. It’s a good idea if you’re faking a black box to simulate the battery life of a real black box. The fakes have been pinging for days after the batteries were supposed to have died.
Update on the European Election
As I predicted last week the Clegg-Farage debates have had a dramatic impact. UKIP has surged ahead in the polls, pulling 20 points in one poll published today (Sunday).
The Lib Dems are down to 7 points in the same poll. Today’s Sunday Telegraph is predicting that the Tories will trail Labour and UKIP on May 22nd.
I actually think that UKIP will top the poll.
Update on the Aussie election
You read that right! I covered this story in the fall, making the comment that Australia’s electoral system is too complex. They are still counting the votes! The Australian Electoral Commission, seemingly unhappy with the election of a Sports Party Senator in Western Australia, triggered a recount of that state’s Senate election by losing a couple of ballot boxes.
The election has been re-held. The first preference votes have been counted, but it will take another three weeks or so to allocate the preferences! It looks like the Sports Part have missed out, but who knows?
The Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party have graciously invited me to join their Motoring Advisory Council, a non-political appointment. Along with the Palmer United Party, AMEP will hold the balance of power in the Senate, providing a priceless opportunity for a democratic legislature to enact rational motoring laws. The last legislature in the Western world to act rationally in respect of motoring laws was Montana. They don’t just do gay cowboys!
We’re finally there! Spyhunter is officially published tomorrow (April 14th.) It’s status on Amazon, in theory, should change from unavailable to “available.” June Press’s helpful website is www.JunePress.com.
Thanks to JS for buying a copy, I hope other readers will follow! A US and e-book editions are planned for later in the year. Price is a very reasonable £25 plus p & p.
Fellow intelligence author Dr Jerry Corsi has been kind enough to say some nice things about it for the launch press release. That was kind of him, since as everyone knows I am far too modest to say nice things about it myself!
Squadron Leader Tony Iveson DFC AE
On Monday of last week I was invited to Tony Iveson’s moving memorial service at the RAF Church, St Clement Danes. The Assistant Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Stringer (a nice chap) was there, and HRH Prince Charles was represented.
A Dambuster, Tony was recommended for Bomber Command by none other than Group Captain Leonard Cheshire VC. Tony and I were friends, through Bomber Command Association, of which I am an Honorary Member.
Tony’s most memorable raid was on the Tirpitz. He actually helped to sink her, dropping his 12,000 lb Tallboy bomb right beside the Kraut battlewagon. That was the idea. The shockwave from Tony’s bomb, and a colleague’s, in I think 9 Squadron (the 9 boys always get upset when they don’t get a mention!) was enough to cause her to turn turtle, i.e. tits-up.
Squadron Leader Benny Goodman was with Tony on that raid. He’s still going strong and brought Tony’s medals into the church, a moving moment.
Benny owes his life to some superb airmanship by Tony Iveson on the preceding Tirpitz raid, when skilful flying kept Tony’s Lanc under control, after one of her Merlins surged on take-off.
Unusually, Tony was also a veteran of the Battle of Britain. Sadly, with his passing, “The Few” are even fewer. Tony was the first to admit that he was more at home in a Lancaster than a Spitfire.
He was shot down over the North Sea by the rear gunner of a Junkers 88. As one of his courageous 616 Squadron colleagues told me at the drinkies afterwards in the RAF Club, you should always strafe an 88 from below. Never attack a Junkers 88 from above!
In tribute to Tony, absent friends and the crew and passengers of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 370, murdered by the PLA-Navy whilst proceeding on their lawful occasions, I hope the editors will allow me to quote from Pilot Officer John Magee RCAF’s haunting poem, High Flight (1941), read by Jamie Iveson at the memorial service:
“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth,
Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence …
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
Classic Movie of the Week – The Devil at 4 O’Clock
Life and death, and other big issues, are the theme of this fine movie, starring Spencer Tracy as a whiskey priest, and Frank Sinatra as a convict with a heart of gold.
They die together, in the moving finale, the priest having ministered to a dying man, and Frank Sinatra having gone in harm’s way to stand by a friend. It is difficult to tell who gives the finer performance, Spencer Tracy, or ‘Ol’ Blue Eyes’.
As I have observed before Frank Sinatra was a fine man, who was forced to do some things which were not so fine. This is one of his best performances, showing his great depth as an actor. The plot revolves around a children’s leper hospital, endangered by an exploding volcano.
Critics might say the movie is pure schmaltz. It is – nice schmaltz. Believe you me, after a week dealing inter alia with mass murder, schmaltz has its place.
There is no intelligence interest, save that the movie deals with some of the core values of our civilization, which everyone in the Clandestine Community defending it should understand. There are some fine flying sequences with a Consolidated PBY Catalina, however. They were fine boats.
We have lost another fine actor this week, in Mickey Rooney. Like Frank Sinatra, he too has been under-rated as an actor, partly because he was given some poor parts. The Short Guy actually gave some great performances, and I’m not just saying this because I was put in e-mail contact with one of his former attornies this week! Mickey was loved by attornies of course, especially divorce ones. He was a great benefactor to the profession. He was also a great American, who loved life as much as loved women, and gave a great many people a great deal of pleasure over many decades.
Michael Shrimpton is a barrister, called to the Bar in London 1983. He is a specialist in National Security and Constitutional Law, Strategic Intelligence and Counterterrorism. Michael was formerly an Adjunct Professor of Intelligence Studies in what was then the Department of National Security, Intelligence and Space Studies at the American Military University.
Michael’s ground-breaking, 700 page intelligence text “Spyhunter: The Secret History of German Intelligence” was published in England by June Press on April 14th 2014.
Editing: Erica P. Wissinger