Transcripts of discussions between the soldier and his lawyer at the time
showed Sgt Nightingale understood the remarks to mean: “If I fight this
I will get five years.”

The court heard that his wife and father were both present and felt that he
could not risk the prospect of such a long sentence.

Mr Clegg said that the soldier – who is father to two young children – was
left facing the prospect of “a very long period of separation from them
if he persisted in a denial of guilt”.

If locked up for more than two years, Sgt Nightingale would also have faced
serving time in a civilian prison rather than military detention.

Overturning the conviction the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge – sitting with
two other judges – said: “Our conclusion is that the defendant’s
freedom of choice was indeed improperly narrowed.

“Accordingly, the plea of guilty is in effect a nullity to be set aside.
The conviction based on the plea will be quashed.”

He said a judge must “maintain his distance” from discussions
between defendant’s and their lawyers about whether to plead guilty to an

“It is axiomatic in our criminal justice system that a defendant charged
with an offence is personally responsible for entering his plea and that in
exercising his personal responsibility he must be free to choose whether to
plead guilty or not guilty,” Lord Judge added.

The Court of Appeal judges agreed that the judge advocate’s remarks would have
conveyed to Sgt Nightingale that he was facing a sentence of no less than
five years and “certainly no longer than two and very probably less”
if he pleaded guilty.

The lower sentence would have had the added advantage for Sgt Nightingale of
the “possibility that a military career could continue”.

Outside court Sgt Nightingale said he was “absolutely elated” but
that the victory was slightly tarnished by the fact that he faced a retrial.

However he added: “We will attack if with the same vigorous tenacity that
we have done with this.”

The soldier said that it was “frustrating” not to be able to serve
in the Army while the case was ongoing.

His wife Sally, whose campaign on her husband’s behalf led to a public outcry
and won the backing of David Cameron, said she was relieved but “saddened”
that military prosecutors were seeking a retrial.

She said: “We are delighted with the outcome. There are mixed emotions…
But tonight we’ll celebrate the fact that Danny is not convicted of a crime
any more.”

Mrs Nightingale added that serving members of the SAS had been ordered not to
speak to her husband.

Sgt Nightingale, 38, who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was given an
18-month sentence at the original court martial but was freed after this was
reduced to 12 months and suspended by the appeal court.

The case centres on a Glock 9mm he had been given by Iraqi soldiers he had
been helping to train. But the soldier, who had medical problems affecting
his memory, said he did not remember having it.

If Sgt Nightingale is found guilty at a re-trial, he cannot be given any
sentence which is greater than the suspended term handed down by the Court
of Appeal.

In a statement, the Service Prosecuting Authority confirmed that a retrial
would take place of the “sensitive and important” case but said it
could not answer any further questions about it.

SAS sniper Sergeant Danny Nightingale with his wife Sally on Wednesday Photo:

Former SAS sniper Danny Nightingale ‘elated’ as court quashes weapon … –
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