I have witnessed over the last week or so, especially from things like Leave.EU and The Daily Mail, outrage at the fact that Sgt. Blackwell (a so called ‘war hero’) will not be able to return home to his family for Christmas. This is treated as some sort of unpatriotic attack by judges on our servicemen who keep us all safe, as if somehow they were not doing their job and ‘have lost their way’. This however could not be further from the truth and if one actually looks at the evidence, one can see that the judges have followed the law and even been generous in their doing so.
Examining the case that took Blackwell to prison in 2013 it is evident that he did break the law and do so grievously. Blackwell and others on his patrol came across a Taliban fighter wounded by Apache helicopter; he ordered two of them to move him out of sight of the British Surveillance and proceeded to tell them to stop administering first aid and subsequently shot him in the chest with a 9mm pistol. He then stated ‘Shuffle off this mortal coil, you cunt. It’s nothing you wouldn’t do to us… I just broke the Geneva Convention’. This is indisputable as there is video evidence of this happening; one cannot accuse the judges of having fabricated evidence or looking at this with a political stance. The judges therefore were quite right to sentence the man to life imprisonment for murder, something he admits to doing after killing the man.
Judges have already been generous to Blackwell; his appeal by Courts Martial in 2014 had his sentence reduced from life to eight years which, considering it is murder, is a very lenient reduction. Perhaps they were right to do so given the context of war and the stresses this undeniably causes but one cannot say that he was innocent, even after an appeal. However, when a twice convicted murderer is refused bail to go home for Christmas, this is somehow treated by some as a national outrage. The reason for this is however obvious.
The Brexit campaign was won through appeals to patriotism, to ‘take back control’ and to go against the ‘out of touch’ political elite. It is now funny then that the publications and sources who supported Brexit have become the most virulent opponents of the judges and especially after they ruled that parliament must first give its consent. What we therefore see here is not a legitimate legal complaint against a legal judgment but a political calculation. They are hoping that, by again appealing to patriotism, they can turn people against the judges as part of the ‘out of touch’ elite who will not send one of our boys home for Christmas.
The Daily Mail did not even mention that he had killed a man saying ‘The stoical dignity of a man who’s endured far too much: ROBERT HARDMAN sees barely a flicker of emotion as Sergeant Blackman learns he won’t be going home for Christmas’, Katie Hopkins goes so far as to say ‘Don’t worry… we’ll be back next week, and every week until the British Law and justice mean the same thing’ and Leave.EU said ‘They won’t let a war hero see his family at Christmas.. our judges have lost their way’. Throughout all of these statements, one can see the appeals to people’s emotions through things like ‘justice’, ‘war hero’ and ‘family at Christmas’.
This is not only completely counterfactual but entirely counterproductive; they are deliberately attempting to undermine confidence in our legal system in an attempt to push forward an agenda. I actually think that we should leave the EU after the vote but I also, and quite rationally, think we should do it within the confines of the law. Given that parliament is ultimately sovereign, leaving the EU as a constitutional issue should require parliamentary consent. Rather than trying to make a mockery of what is actually a very fair legal system, they should be focusing on ensuring MPs vote in line with the referendum.
The Sgt Blackwell case has become politicised, not for its legal merits or controversial nature of the case itself, but because it has become part of a fight by some to undermine the legitimacy of our legal system in order to justify why the court of appeal voted against the government and to induce the Supreme Court to vote in favour of the government’s case. I trust and hope that the Supreme Court will use their legal expertise and experience and not listen to the political outcry against judges being out of touch; they have done nothing wrong so far.