Army of­fi­cers deny charges over death on fir­ing range

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY BEN MITCHELL

TWO Royal Ir­ish Reg­i­ment of­fi­cers and a war­rant of­fi­cer “had a to­tal dis­re­gard for the safety” of their men when they or­gan­ised a live am­mu­ni­tion train­ing ex­er­cise in which a 21-year-old sol­dier was fa­tally shot in the head, a court mar­tial has heard.

Ranger Michael Maguire, of the reg­i­ment’s 1st Bat­tal­ion, was one of sev­eral sol­diers who came un­der ma­chine gun fire dur­ing the ex­er­cise at the Castle­martin Train­ing Area in Pem­brokeshire in May 2012.

Nigel Lick­ley QC, pros­e­cut­ing, told the trial at Bul­ford that sol­diers on one range were fir­ing di­rectly at those on the neigh­bour­ing range, who were about 1km away and would have been vis­i­ble.

Rgr Maguire, from Co Cork, was shot in the fore­head and killed.

He had joined the bat­tal­ion in May 2010 and had com­pleted a tour of Afghanistan.

Cap­tain Jonathan Price (32), now of the 2nd Bat­tal­ion, Royal Ir­ish, is ac­cused of the manslaugh­ter by gross neg­li­gence of Rgr Maguire through his fail­ure to set up and su­per­vise a safe ex­er­cise. The train­ing was pre­par­ing the troops for de­ploy­ment to Kenya.

Lieu­tenant Colonel Richard Bell (45), and War­rant Of­fi­cer Stuart Pankhurst (40) are both ac­cused of neg­li­gently per­form­ing a duty.

The case is be­ing heard by a panel of seven se­nior of­fi­cers.

Mr Lick­ley con­tin­ued: “All three men played their part in caus­ing this catas­tro­phe in dif­fer­ent ways.

“The com­mon sense of the sit­u­a­tion is you do not point guns at peo­ple, you do not de­sign, per­mit or al­low an ac­tiv­ity that al­lows ma­chine guns to fire di­rectly in line with your men, men that you know are there, men that you might be able to see, if not the ve­hi­cles that are with them.”

Mr Lick­ley said Price was ac­cused of neg­li­gence by fail­ing to at­tend a recce of the range when pre­par­ing a Range Ac­tion Safety Plan (Rasp), that he placed tar­gets too close to­gether and he failed to “de­con­flict” the two ex­er­cises.

He said: “Cru­cially, he al­lowed fir­ing to take place beyond the per­mit­ted arcs of fire.”

He added: “Such was the to­tal dis­re­gard for the safety of his men that a pub­lic beach 3km away and any­one on it was put at risk of be­ing hit, such was the range of the weapons be­ing used, the SA80 (as­sault ri­fle) and the gen­eral pur­pose ma­chine gun (GPMG).

“It’s for­tu­nate there were not more ca­su­al­ties.”

Mr Lick­ley said that Bell, the se­nior plan­ning of­fi­cer, was ac­cused of fail­ing to re­view or counter-sign the Rasp pro­duced by Price and failed to su­per­vise or support him.

He said that Pankhurst, who was su­per­vis­ing the ex­er­cise in­volv­ing Rgr Maguire on Range 10A, was ac­cused of fail­ing to “ex­press any cau­tion or con­cern” de­spite hav­ing at­tended the recce and hav­ing knowl­edge of the ex­tent of the ad­ja­cent shoot­ing on Range 10B.

All three de­fen­dants deny the charges and the trial, which is ex­pected to last about six weeks, con­tin­ues.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.