AN SAS soldier from Crewe, who was jailed for 18 months for possessing an illegal firearm, has been freed from prison.

Judges at the Court of Appeal today suspended Sgt Danny Nightinagle's sentence, meaning he can be released from military detention.

Sgt Nightingale had pleaded guilty at military court martial to possessing a 9mm Glock pistol.

The soldier’s supporters argued the weapon was given to him in Baghdad in 2007, as a gift by Iraqi soldiers whom he had helped to train.

Wife, Sally Nightingale, has led the fight to see the sentence overturned.

Her struggle was widely backed by MPs and former Special Forces members, including author Andy McNab.

Sgt Nightingale’s supporters argued that when he returned to Britain for the funeral of two comrades, the gun was placed in a bag packed by a colleague.

Latterly, the married father of two collapsed during a marathon in South America in 2009, contracting a tropical illness that supporters say affected his memory, causing him to forget about the weapon’s existence.

MP for Canterbury, Julian Brazier, argued Sgt Nightingale had ‘compelling medical evidence to show that his memory was severely impaired’ by his collapse, and was unlikely to even know of the gun’s existence.

Sgt Nightingale’s wife, Sally, 38, lives in Crewe with the couple’s two young daughters.

More than 100,000 people across Britain signed a petition to free the jailed soldier.

Sgt Nightingale has served the SAS for 17 years, and lends his name to a revolutionary surgical dressing that he invented, and is now widely used by the NHS.

Three judges - Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, Mr Justice Fulford and Mr Justice Bean - heard legal argument at a hearing in the Court Martial Appeal Court in London.

They reduced Sgt Nightingale’s sentence from 18 to 12 months. However, they also suspended the sentence, and said he could be freed immediately.

Sgt Nightingale's wife Sally, 38, wept at the verdict.

She was lost for words but nodded when asked if she was "thrilled".

Sgt Nightingale walked free from the cells at the Royal Courts of Justice.

Wiping away tears, he hugged his wife and father in the main hall of the building.