Public demands Royal Marine who murdered Taliban fighter should have his sentence halved
- 39 per cent disagree with ten-year minimum life sentence for Sgt Blackman
- Six out of ten say he should serve a maximum of five years behind bars
- One in three say he should not be locked up at all
The Royal Marine jailed for at least ten years for murdering a badly wounded Taliban insurgent should have his sentence halved to a maximum of five years.
That is the overwhelming view of the public in a poll conducted for The Mail on Sunday – the first survey since the sentence was imposed on Sergeant Alexander Blackman.
A total of 39 per cent disagree with the ten-year minimum life sentence for Sgt Blackman, with 37 per cent in favour.
However, almost six out of ten say he should serve a maximum of five years behind bars.
And one in three say he should not be locked up at all.
The results of the Survation poll come amid continuing controversy over the jailing of the Marine, who was dismissed in disgrace for a ‘cold blooded killing’ that had ‘tarnished’ the good name of the British Forces.
The sentence has also divided politicians. Senior Tory and former Defence Minister Sir Gerald Howarth criticised the sentence and said he believes five years is sufficient punishment for Sgt Blackman.
Sir Gerald, MP for Army garrison town Aldershot, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘The Afghanistan war is as brutal as any we have seen – and only one side is fighting in accordance with the Geneva Convention. The Taliban routinely string the limbs of our dead soldiers up on trees.
‘The highest standard of discipline must be maintained in the Armed Forces and this man obviously committed an offence. But ten years is too much. Five years would be more appropriate. The court should have paid greater attention to this soldier’s fine record in the Army and that he had done several tours of duty in Afghanistan.’
Sir Gerald was backed by Left-wing MP and former soldier Eric Joyce, who argued: ‘It is ridiculous to treat Sgt Blackman like someone who has carried out a premeditated murder in civvy street.
‘I doubt whether the judge has the first idea of what it is like to be on the battlefield when bullets are flying around. If the legal system cannot make allowances for that, then it should be changed. Clearly, this man should go to jail, but five years is enough.’
But former Lib Dem leader and ex-Royal Marine Lord Paddy Ashdown, who was an MP for Somerset, where Sgt Blackman lives, strongly disagreed. He said: ‘I am content with the judge’s decision. We go into these countries to defend the law so we cannot break it. If we do so, the law must take its natural course and it has.’
Asked whether they agree with the ten-year minimum jail sentence, the Survation poll suggests narrow opposition to the ruling among the public.
However, the strength of feeling that he has been treated too harshly emerges clearly in response to a more detailed question. When asked what punishment Sgt Blackman deserves, 35 per cent of voters say no jail sentence, 23 per cent say he should serve five years, 20 per cent back ten years, and 22 per cent say he should serve more than ten years.
A family friend said Sgt Blackman’s wife Claire was ‘incredibly grateful’ for the public’s support.
Survation interviewed 900 people online yesterday.