Murder charge Royal Marines released from custody
FIVE Royal Marines charged with murder have been released from custody.
The commandos appeared at Colchester Military Court Centre with their legal representatives – but once again behind closed doors.
After releasing the men, Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett said he had sent them back to their barracks, where they would remain subject to certain conditions.
The judge ruled an interim anonymity order and reporting restrictions preventing the naming of the five were to be extended until November 5.
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The media will be able to enter submissions at a special hearing at Bulford Military Court, in Wiltshire, on that date.
Known only as Marines A, B, C, D and E, the men were in the court room for over an hour.
After the hearing, shortly before 3pm, they were ushered out of a back door at the court buildings and into a vehicle with blacked-out windows.
Speaking after he had released the men, the Judge Advocate General said: "Last Monday five Royal Marines appeared before a Judge in chambers, where it was ordered they would remain in custody.
"I have released all of these Marines back to their own bases subject to conditions including at the address in which they will stay."
The press were not allowed into the court while the Marines were in the dock.
Neither were they allowed to hear submissions from counsel regarding the anonymity order.
A number of military representatives were also in the court, which was held yesterday afternoon.
Following the next hearing, on November 5, the five are expected to enter their pleas.
A plea and case management hearing has been set for December 10, also at Bulford Military Court Centre.
The allegations came after footage was found on a serviceman's laptop when he was arrested on a civilian matter, the Ministry of Defence has said.
Seven commandos were initially arrested on Thursday, October 11, followed by a further two marines; four of whom were later released without charge.
Five of the men were charged with the offence on October 13.
The joint charge is being brought by the Service Prosecuting Authority, which takes on a similar role to the Crown Prosecution Service.
It is alleged the men committed a murder of an unknown Afghan national contrary to Section 42 of the Armed Forces Act (2006).
The Marines are accused of murdering the individual on September 15 last year, while city-based 3 Commando Brigade were on operational tour in the country.
HERALD DEFENCVE REPORTER REBECCA RICKS IN COLCHESTER
ARRIVING at Merville Barracks in Colchester, also home to the Parachute Regiment, everyone is required to gain photographic passes to enter the court.
It is not dissimilar to most other military barracks.
Signing into the visitor centre, photographs are taken and a bright red pass featuring my picture gets me through the front gate past the armed guards.
A sign makes the security set-up clear – "100 percent ID checks".
The garrison is much bigger than any I have been to before.
It looks new and vast, with plenty of open space.
The Paras continue with their daily routines in the background.
It's like the court is just another function of this bustling military base.
The court is situated in a new-build block towards the back of the camp.
The room itself is modern and has a bright classroom feel to it, unlike the dark rooms you would find in Plymouth Crown Court.
The custody centre is a 100-metre march to the courts, not a few cells underneath the main part of the building like at a magistrates' court.
The arrangement is similar to most courtrooms, with a bench at the front for the judge and a dock for defendants.
The difference lies with a jury. In Courts Martial hearings a jury panel, called the board, sit on the top bench around the Judge Advocate.
The jury are not members of the public but instead senior-ranking officers from all three services who will be instructed once a case comes to trial.
An area to the right of the judge has been set aside for the press; it is clear this case has significant media interest.
Three television crews, press agencies, reporters from national newspapers and myself take notes at the fastest pace.
To our left, around 15 military officers from the different services sit.
In the middle, in front of the judge, are five barristers – as in criminal courts.
The judge and barristers dress, as expected, in gowns and wigs.
Before being allowed into the courtroom we had been kept waiting in a smaller court downstairs whilst the hearing took place in camera – behind closed doors.
It did not have that court feel to it. No security guards, no airport-style scanners and a much smaller waiting area.
I imagine a lot of this is because of the age of the facility. It looks virtually new.
One thing did feel similar to high-profile civilian cases; the five defendants were taken out of the back door afterwards and into a blacked-out vehicle.