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Pleased common sense prevailed

By Herald Express  |  Posted: December 13, 2012

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I RECEIVED a lot of mail from constituents concerning Sgt Danny Nightingale, an SAS sniper who, despite having served our country with distinction for 11 years including in Afghanistan and Iraq, was put behind bars.

He admitted to the procession of a Glock pistol and 336 rounds of live ammunition, which he had kept unsecured at his home.

The arsenal apparently came to light when a neighbour approached the police after a disagreement she had with Sgt Nightingale's wife.

Most of the facts of the case are undisputed.

Sgt Nightingale (pictured) was given the Glock as a gift in 2007 by members of the Iraqi military in recognition of the personal service he had provided while on duty in their country.

He had meant, he says, at some stage to have had the gun deactivated and mounted as a souvenir but had never got around to it.

The situation being complicated by the fact that Sgt N has apparently suffered memory problems since 2009 when following a tropical disease, which affected his brain, he collapsed during a charity marathon run in South Africa.

The gun itself had been brought back from Iraq (in his absence) and under the supervision of the military police with his suitcase having been packed by them — actions that, as far as I can tell, may themselves have also been unlawful.

Having accepted his guilt, something that Sgt N says he did on the basis that he was told he would otherwise receive a five-year jail sentence, he was sentenced to 18 months.

So we had a man who has served his country with distinction behind bars for holding an unsecured and prohibited weapon — a situation that was, in a small part at least, aided by the military police themselves.

His actions may have been stupid — but worthy of jail?

There was a debate on all of this in the House of Commons following a very public disagreement between two cabinet ministers — the Defence Secretary writing to the Attorney General asking if Danny Nightingale might be released and the AJ's negative response coming in less than an hour.

The debate saw MPs from across the House calling for 'common sense'.

I for one am pleased that common sense did finally prevail and that Sgt Nightingale has been recently released on appeal.

THERE are a couple of big set pieces for any Chancellor.

There is the budget in March and the Autumn Statement that, just like its grander cousin, is a time when he reviews the economy and makes tax and spending announcements.

This time around the Chancellor had to accept that he will miss his deficit reduction target by a year although the independent Office for Budget Responsibility stated that this is due to poor growth among our trading partners including the Euro-zone.

The OBR made it clear that the Chancellor is right to stick to his course — but that did not mean that he was not able to make some important announcements including more to be paid by the wealthiest with large private pensions and a real reduction in the size of welfare benefits.

Labour will present the welfare cuts as heartless but it should be borne in mind that due to strong pay restraint in businesses and Government, average earnings have risen by just 10 per cent since 2007/8 while out of work benefits have gone up by 20 per cent.

So for the next three years the Government will uprate most working age benefits and tax credits by below the rate of inflation.

Other important announcements included further reductions in Central Government expenditure.

Whitehall expenditure has already been cut to its lowest level since the war.

Now a further £5billion is to be saved and this money invested in new infrastructure, ensuring that bureaucratic waste is converted into job creating new roads and homes — especially important to the struggling construction industry.

In the South West this will result in additional dual carriageway sections along the A30.

Finally and most pleasingly for the hard-pressed motorist, next year's planned 3p per litre tax increase on fuel is to be scrapped entirely.

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