Newspapers lose bid to show footage of a Royal Marine allegedly executing an Afghan prisoner

A judge today ruled against newspapers seeking to publish footage of a British soldier allegedly executing an Afghan prisoner.

The video has been already shown during the trial of three Royal Marines accused of executing a wounded opponent. The Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph and the Daily Mail had applied for the release of the video.

The footage from a helmet mounted camera shows one of the soldiers shooting the victim in the chest.

The video was shown during a military tribunal in Bulford, Wiltshire last week.

The incident happened in Helmand Province on in September 2011.

On the video, one of the soldiers is heard to say:  “There you are, shuffle off this mortal coil you c***, it’s nothing you wouldn’t have done to us.”

He added: “Obviously this don’t go anywhere fellas, I’ve just broken the Geneva Convention.”

The Ministry of Defence had opposed the release of the video as it could be used by terrorists as a recruiting aid.

In a written ruling, Judge Advocate General Judge Jeff Blackett rejected the media's application.

He said: "In short, therefore, my view is the principle of open justice can be satisfied and has been satisfied by the DVD being played in open court where it has been observed by journalists and reported upon quite properly.

"Releasing it for unrestricted public consumption would expose British service personnel to increased risk of harm unnecessarily.”

Blackett said there was a “very high risk” that the video could be used by terrorists as a tool to radicalise people and incite others to carry out terrorist attacks.

He said: "Once published it would be impossible to stop further distribution in defiance of any order I might make. Once the genie escaped from the bottle it would be possible to control or put it back in," the judge said.

"I suspect that this would be in the form of increased insurgent activity in theatre or the deliberate targeting of off-duty service personnel overseas and in this country.

"In balancing the need for open justice against this risk I am fortified by the fact that the principle of open justice will not be compromised in this case if the DVD is not released.

"It has been played in open court where it has been watched by members of the public and the media.

"It has been described in written reports and on television reports and there can be no suggestion that the prosecution case and the material upon which it relies are not crystal clear.

"Its release may be for proper journalistic purposes by those represented here but would also be used for sensationalist purposes by others and propaganda purposes by terrorist groups.

"More importantly its release will increase the threat of harm to British service personnel. I am not prepared to make an order which may lead to the injury or death of a single member of the British armed forces and in making this decision I have erred on the side of safety.

"This is to some extent breaking new ground because the courts which have dealt with this before have dealt with much less dramatic circumstances.

"The principle of open justice is immutable but it must be subject to exceptions particularly when dealing with threats posed by terrorist organisations which repeatedly attempt to radicalise people whom they can incite to commit atrocities."

A judge today ruled against newspapers seeking to publish footage of a British soldier allegedly executing an Afghan prisoner.

The video has been already shown during the trial of three Royal Marines accused of executing a wounded opponent. The Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph and the Daily Mail had applied for the release of the video.

The footage from a helmet mounted camera shows one of the soldiers shooting the victim in the chest.

The video was shown during a military tribunal in Bulford, Wiltshire last week.

The incident happened in Helmand Province on in September 2011.

On the video, one of the soldiers is heard to say:  “There you are, shuffle off this mortal coil you c***, it’s nothing you wouldn’t have done to us.”

He added: “Obviously this don’t go anywhere fellas, I’ve just broken the Geneva Convention.”

The Ministry of Defence had opposed the release of the video as it could be used by terrorists as a recruiting aid.

In a written ruling, Judge Advocate General Judge Jeff Blackett rejected the media's application.

He said: "In short, therefore, my view is the principle of open justice can be satisfied and has been satisfied by the DVD being played in open court where it has been observed by journalists and reported upon quite properly.

"Releasing it for unrestricted public consumption would expose British service personnel to increased risk of harm unnecessarily.”

Blackett said there was a “very high risk” that the video could be used by terrorists as a tool to radicalise people and incite others to carry out terrorist attacks.

He said: "Once published it would be impossible to stop further distribution in defiance of any order I might make. Once the genie escaped from the bottle it would be possible to control or put it back in," the judge said.

"I suspect that this would be in the form of increased insurgent activity in theatre or the deliberate targeting of off-duty service personnel overseas and in this country.

"In balancing the need for open justice against this risk I am fortified by the fact that the principle of open justice will not be compromised in this case if the DVD is not released.

"It has been played in open court where it has been watched by members of the public and the media.

"It has been described in written reports and on television reports and there can be no suggestion that the prosecution case and the material upon which it relies are not crystal clear.

"Its release may be for proper journalistic purposes by those represented here but would also be used for sensationalist purposes by others and propaganda purposes by terrorist groups.

"More importantly its release will increase the threat of harm to British service personnel. I am not prepared to make an order which may lead to the injury or death of a single member of the British armed forces and in making this decision I have erred on the side of safety.

"This is to some extent breaking new ground because the courts which have dealt with this before have dealt with much less dramatic circumstances.

"The principle of open justice is immutable but it must be subject to exceptions particularly when dealing with threats posed by terrorist organisations which repeatedly attempt to radicalise people whom they can incite to commit atrocities."

 

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