Marines should not be named in advance of court verdict
I WRITE in response to recent letters in the Herald regarding a legal application by the Herald to challenge the 'anonymity ruling' in the case of five Royal Marines.
If successful this would have allowed the paper to name the five soldiers, who have been arrested on a charge of murdering an unknown Afghan.
I fully accept and support the media's freedom to report 'fair and balanced' facts to the public as a fundamental pillar of our democracy and a 'free press'. Indeed the naming of persons appearing in Court is a routine matter.
However, I would suggest that cases involving soldiers serving on operations fall into the area of 'exceptional circumstances' and I would like to ask the Editor what is to be gained by naming the 'Five Royal Marines' at this stage and more importantly has the paper considered the risks in revealing their identity now.
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While those charged can be protected from the press their families, wives and friends cannot. If the Herald was given approval to publish the names others would quickly identify their home towns. Exposing families carries a high degree of risk in such a sensitive case and could easily result in friends and relatives being identified by extremists.
I am unclear about what is to be achieved if the Judge Advocate was to lift the order and name the five Royal Marines. They have been charged and therefore prior to the court case the media is legally restrained in what it can report. When the case comes to Court the press will, I am sure, have full access to the exact nature of the allegation and indeed if they are found guilty, then their names are likely to be made public.
In the meantime we do not know what has happened and must regard these 'Five Royal Marines' as innocent until proven guilty.
These soldiers are not common criminals and are already paying a price as they cannot attend promotion courses and will miss out on vital training opportunities.
As a reservist, I served in Afghanistan shortly after 9/11 and have since undertaken several tours in Helmand. I am therefore acutely aware of the risks and everyday decisions that British soldiers make as they serve their Queen and country. The Herald has a pedigree of excellence and trust within the community of Plymouth and has been praised for its reporting both from the frontline and in exposing 'wrongdoing' within the military.
While some may not agree with the war in Afghanistan, these young men have prevented elements of Al Quaeda from reforming and committing more acts of terror on mainland UK. A soldier's job is not an easy one. George Orwell's crude but profound quote highlighted the role of the soldier when he said: 'People sleep peacefully in their beds at night, because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf'.
May I ask that on this occasion the paper withdraws its application and waits for the Courts Martial or Court case.
Any serious allegation against soldiers must be investigated to see if there is a case to answer. But I would ask readers to pause for one minute and dwell on the fact that in World War Two if a soldier was taken prisoner he would be shipped off to a Prisoner of War camp. In Helmand soldiers face the daily lottery of praying they will not step on an IED, they also know that if they get captured there is no Prisoner of War camp, instead they will be tortured and beheaded.
DAVID J F REYNOLDS QVRM
Editor's note: The Herald's application has already been considered and rejected by the Court and The Herald is abiding by its legal duty to obey the ban.