In the Media

Appeal as SAS soldier Danny Nightingale sentenced

PUBLISHED November 22, 2012

Thursday 22 November 2012 by Catherine Baksi

Who? Simon McKay, 42, solicitor-advocate and sole principal at Wetherby firm McKay Law.

Why is he in the news? Representing SAS soldier Sergeant Danny Nightingale, who was sentenced to 18 months in military detention after pleading guilty at a court martial to possessing live ammunition and a Glock 9mm pistol, given to him as a gift by Iraqi soldiers he had helped train.

Nightingale, who is appealing the conviction and sentence, said the gun was packed by colleagues for him after he left Iraq quickly to help organise the funerals of two colleagues. He suffered brain damage during the year in which he was waiting for his belongings to be returned and was unable to remember that the pistol was still among them.

He pleaded guilty to the charge after being warned by the judge that he could face five years' detention if found guilty after a trial.

Thoughts on the case: 'There is a huge issue with military personnel coming back with guns and ammo. I'm not a supporter of military justice for cases like this. It has a role for disciplinary matters, but substantive criminal matters should be dealt with in the civilian jurisdiction.'

Dealing with the media: 'I've been co-ordinating the calls from the press for the family, who have been keen to speak for themselves. There has been massive press and public support for Nightingale. Predominantly, it's been done as a human interest story, based on the dignified response of him and his family.'

Why become a lawyer? 'I became a lawyer by accident. I joined a firm at 19 as a clerk and the senior partner suggested I qualify as a solicitor at night school. It took about 10 years.'

Career high: 'The acquittal of Private Clegg. He had been convicted of murder for his involvement in the shooting dead of two teenage joyriders in west Belfast. He was convicted in 1993 and acquitted after a retrial in 1999.'