AN SAS sniper jailed for illegally possessing a pistol and ammunition has thanked the public after winning an appeal and walking free.
Father-of-two Sgt Danny Nightingale (37) who lives near Crewe, Cheshire, said he had been "humbled" by public reaction to his plight.
He had been sentenced to 18 months' military detention earlier this month by a judge sitting in a military court after admitting illegally possessing a Glock 9mm pistol and more than 300 rounds of ammunition.
But three appeal judges concluded that the sentence was too harsh, after a hearing at the Court Martial Appeal Court in London.
They cut the term to 12 months, said it should be suspended, and ordered Sgt Nightingale's release.
Judges heard that the gun had been a gift from Iraqi special forces soldiers Sgt Nightingale had trained.
They were told that Sgt Nightingale planned to have the weapon decommissioned and keep it as a trophy.
And they heard that Sgt Nightingale, who has suffered medical problems that affected his memory, appeared to have put the gun in a cupboard in his army accommodation in Hereford on a "very hectic day" when preparing to deploy to Afghanistan. Judges heard that more than 100,000 people signed a petition calling for Sgt Nightingale to be freed after his wife Sally (38) and other family members launched a campaign.
Sgt Nightingale said that the level of public support had been "humbling" as he hugged Mrs Nightingale after being released.
"Thank you to the great British public," he said. "They have been absolutely wonderful in their support.
"It has just been extremely humbling. Very, very humbling."
Mrs Nightingale said: "It can only be good for all the troops out there fighting to see justice has been done."