Sergeant Danny Nightingale with his wife Sally
Sally Nightingale, wife of jailed SAS war hero Danny Nightingale, has made a moving appeal to David Cameron to intervene in the case of her husband’s imprisonment. As the Telegraph’s Defence Correspondent Sean Rayment reports today, she has asked the prime minister for “five minutes of his time” in return for Sergeant Nightingale’s 17 years of service in the Army, writing in a letter: “I would like to speak to you face to face and explain in person why this sentence is such an injustice. Prime Minister, you can help my husband and his family. Your intervention can end his detention.”
Mrs. Nightingale’s request should be the first thing the prime minister reads when he gets back to his desk. Sergeant Nightingale was handed an 18-month jail sentence by a military court martial just before Remembrance Day, for possession of a 9mm Glock pistol, which he had been presented with by the Iraqi Army for outstanding service. Nightingale, who suffers from severe memory loss following a brain injury, “had intended to have the pistol deactivated and kept as a souvenir in the SAS sergeants’ mess.” The sentence has been described as “a gross miscarriage of justice,” and has been strongly condemned by Nightingale’s former commanding officer, Lt Col Richard Williams, as well as by several prominent SAS veterans, including Col Tim Collins, Andy McNab and Chris Ryan, who have called for his release. Nightingale’s sentence is extraordinarily harsh, as well as unjust, and sends completely the wrong signal to British troops putting their lives on the line for their country.
Incredibly, Nightingale, who spent 11 years serving with distinction in the Special Air Service, including several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, sits behind bars while notorious terror suspect and hate preacher Abu Qatada is back on the streets following a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling. Julian Lewis, the Conservative MP for New Forest, put it well in a question to Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, in the Commons last week, when he noted that: “When people like Qatada must be supported by the state, whilst people like Danny are put behind bars, our society has clearly taken leave of its senses.” Britain is perhaps the only country in the Western world that jails war heroes while simultaneously freeing terrorist suspects. The United States, for example, would never bow its head to a foreign court that is completely unaccountable to its own people. Even the French would balk at such a move.
This week David Cameron should make his voice heard on the Nightingale case. As I noted in a piece last Sunday, at the very least the prime minister should order an immediate inquiry into the court martial, which could be conducted by the Ministry of Defence or Ministry of Justice. He should also give his support to an appeal against the sentence and conviction of Sergeant Nightingale, which is scheduled to be lodged at the Royal Courts of Justice on Wednesday, as well as offer government legal aid to offset the costs of the appeal to the Nightingale family. At the same time he can pledge to pull Britain out of the ECHR and put Mr. Qatada on a plane to Jordan where he can face trial. It is time for the prime minister to stand up for Britain’s courageous warriors while also sending a clear signal to Britain’ enemies that they will not enjoy safe haven on British soil