LONDON (AP) — An elite British sniper jailed for illegally possessing a gun and ammunition won an appeal Thursday to suspend his sentence, after pleading that he forgot about having the gun as a result of a brain injury.
Sgt. Danny Nightingale of the Special Air Service admitted illegal possession of the 9mm Glock pistol and more than 300 rounds of ammunition at a court martial earlier this month. He was sentenced to 18 months military detention on Nov. 7.
Lawyers for the 37-year-old, who has served in Afghanistan and Bosnia, had said that he was given the gun as a present by soldiers he helped train in Iraq and that he had forgotten about it because of a brain injury.
It was not immediately clear what caused the soldier's memory problems. Nightingale's lawyers said the SAS soldier had no intention to use the ammunition, which was discovered along with the gun in his army quarters. They also pleaded with the Court of Appeal to show mercy to a man who had risked his life serving the country.
More than 100,000 people signed a petition in support of Nightingale after his family launched a campaign to free him. Three appeal judges ruled Thursday that Nightingale's sentence was too harsh, and that the offenses were committed in "exceptional circumstances by an exceptional soldier."
The 18-month sentence was to be reduced to 12 months and be suspended, they said. Nightingale was released immediately. The defense ministry said Nightingale is still on active service.