People have been very vocal about this news story. The full story is here but basically an SAS sniper with 17 years’ exemplary experience was jailed for 18 months for possessing a pistol and live ammunition. The pistol was a gift from the Iraqi soldiers he had been helping to train, and in the year between leaving Iraq and getting his possessions back he suffered brain damage and was unable to remember that he possessed it.
I have very mixed feelings about this. I support our troops 100% and have a huge amount of respect for the guys and girls who sign up to spend their working days trying to make the world a safer place. I firmly believe that if it wasn’t for them the world would be in a very different state indeed and I know they don’t get the financial benefits that the job deserves.
But. Possession of a firearm and live ammunition is an offence. And it is an offence for a very good reason. Let’s assume that Sgt Nightingale can be trusted not to use it. Not an unreasonable assumption. But he had two daughters in his house. Two daughters in the same house as the pistol in the wardrobe and the live live ammo under the bed. What parent would be comfortable with that combination?
Another concern is if somebody was to break in and stumble upon it. Suddenly we have yet another gun in the wrong hands.
The general consensus seems to be that he should have been ‘let off’. I don’t completely disagree with that, although I think a less extreme punishment would have been better. No punishment at all sends out all the wrong signals, after all we do want people to learn from this; laws are there for a reason and nobody, regardless of what they have done with their life deserves a Get Out Of Jail Free card.
Julian Brazier, Tory MP for Canterbury and a former member of the territorial SAS, said Nightingale had “risked his life for his country again and again”. This may be so, but isn’t that what you sign up for when you join the forces? At the risk of antagonising people, serving in the forces is just a career. Ok, it’s a career I would never be mentally or physically strong enough for, but still, it’s just a job. People choose it or are drawn to it much as any other career.
Sgt Nightingale is appealing the sentence, and I hope he is successful in either reducing the sentence or accepting a lesser punishment.
And I really hope him and his family can put this horrible situation behind them soon.