Defence chiefs should take responsibility for training march deaths, says lawyer
Defence chiefs have been accused of hiding behind officers to shirk responsibility for the death of three reservists during a training exercise in 2013.
Lawyers acting for the father of Corporal James Dunsby, one of the soldiers who died on the Brecon Beacons during a 40-mile test march, called on ministers to take responsibility after it was announced that two SAS soldiers would face a trial over the incident.
The men who have been charged, who are still serving officers, are accused of “negligent performance of duty”. If found guilty they could face two years in jail and be dismissed from the armed forces.
Known only as 1A and 1B, they were the training officer and chief instructor of the SAS’s reserves selection process.
“In any other corporate environment the employer, in this case the Ministry of Defence, would take corporate responsibility and face a manslaughter charge,” said Hilary Meredith, the founder of Hilary Meredith Solicitors, a Cheshire law firm that specialises in acting for military personnel.
Meredith, who acts for the father of Corporal Dunsby, added: “The MoD has refused to accept corporate responsibility for deaths in training, exercises and selection events — ignoring the will of a parliamentary inquiry and flying in the face of public opinion in the process. It is simply wrong for the MoD to hide behind the officers in charge to escape prosecution.”
However, some independent lawyer observers welcomed the decision from the Service Prosecution Authority. Rhicha Kapila, a partner at the London law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp, said that the move aimed “to punish those individuals who simply acted recklessly and failed to adhere to the MoD’s own internal policies. Those individuals must be held to account for this neglect, which has cost three very young soldiers their lives and to prevent this from ever happening again.”