, LONDON, July 25 – A British special forces sniper received a suspended jail sentence of two years from a military court Thursday for unlawfully possessing a pistol and ammunition, in a case that shone a rare spotlight on the army’s elite SAS unit.
Danny Nightingale, a 38 year old veteran of the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia, was convicted on a retrial at a court martial earlier this month, after the first verdict was quashed by the Court of Appeal last year.
Judge Jeff Blackett told Nightingale, who wore the uniform of the shadowy Special Air Service in court, that the jail term was being suspended for 12 months “because of your exceptional character”.
Father of two Nightingale will only serve the sentence if he is convicted of any other crime during that period.
His original conviction sparked an outcry in Britain, with supporters declaring it a betrayal of a war hero who dedicated 17 years to the military. More than 100,000 people signed a petition for his release.
The veteran said at his first trial that the weapon found at his house in September 2011 was a trophy from Iraq, but at his second trial he said he had no knowledge of the weapon and someone else had put it there.
Nightingale, from Crewe in northwest England, blamed the change in his story on an illness suffered while he was taking part in an endurance event in Brazil four years ago.
He is now being medically discharged from the army.