John Docker: Is it right to brand this Marine a murderer?

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Here’s a sobering question for you. Should Marine Sgt Blackman have been branded a murderer and given a life sentence? Personally I am disgusted. I know what he did was wrong, I know he has to be seen to be punished and I know our military must uphold their finest traditions and discourage further examples of “heat of the moment madness”.

What I do not know is how I would cope with the sheer horror of life under fire. I have experienced simulated battlefield conditions in my youth but not the reality. Neither have I witnessed the brutal treatment of close friends killed, maimed - even dismembered by their opponents. Could I honestly and truthfully say that faced with a barbaric enemy bent on killing me and flouting the most basic rules of human decency, I would never-ever have crossed the line or acted out of character in such circumstances? No I couldn’t.

Successive governments have allowed increasing violence on television and the internet. But alongside a general decline in standards of behaviour, senior politicians and military chiefs apparently continue to expect the highest of moral values from our servicemen - with no exceptions if they are ever found wanting, in spite of previously exemplary records. And what message does this convey to our armed forces? “Your country has sent you here to kill the enemy but you must do so in a gentlemanly and honourable fashion.”

The sentence puts Sgt Blackman into the same category as a mass murderer or vicious sex offender. The Judge Advocate said the act would provoke the enemy “to act more brutally” - more brutal than skinning our troops alive before beheading them? It just doesn’t make sense. The words “ political scapegoat” come readily to mind!

Having said my piece, I’d better lighten up. After all it’s getting near Christmas, as if you could possibly have forgotten. Daily reminders from the little’uns, bargains galore, glitz and glamour in the high streets with twinkling lights and ho-ho-hopefully, ting-a-ling-ing tills. And the festive high note of the year? Ten bob postage stamps! Can you believe it? Half a quid for a half-inch square of sticky paper - it’ll be cheaper to get in the car and deliver them ourselves at this rate.

And of course we’ve enjoyed the usual panto from the politicians with the Chancellor gleefully counting the coffers and a belligerent Mr Balls rehearsing his red nose reindeer routine, with the wicked witch disguised as Mr Squeaker - sorry Speaker, trying to keep order-order. Whichever way you view the Autumn Statement, it’s your duty as a good citizen to get out there and spend! But not too much.