Mid Wales

SAS march deaths: parents' regret at no MoD prosecution

L/Cpl Craig Roberts
Image caption L/Cpl Craig Roberts

The parents of one of three soldiers who died on the Brecon Beacons have said they are "extremely disappointed" the government will not allow the Ministry of Defence to be prosecuted.

L/Cpl Craig Roberts and two others died on an SAS selection exercise in 2013.

The government said allowing court action would not help training safety.

But Kelvin and Margaret Roberts said they believed the army would be more responsible if they were legally accountable.

In March, the Ministry of Defence was reprimanded over failures which led to the deaths of L/Cpl Roberts, from Penrhyn Bay, Conwy county, Cpl James Dunsby from Trowbridge, Wiltshire, and L/Cpl Edward Maher, of Winchester, Hampshire.

At their inquest last year a coroner ruled neglect contributed to their deaths.

The Health and Safety Executive issued a censure, which is the highest action it can take, as the MoD cannot be prosecuted. It has since apologised for the failings.

Image copyright PA/MOD
Image caption Cpl James Dunsby, L/Cpl Edward Maher and L/Cpl Craig Roberts died in July 2013

But, responding to the Commons Defence Select Committee report 'Beyond Endurance?' which was published after the deaths of the SAS candidate reservists, the UK Government ruled out amending the 2007 Corporate Manslaughter Act.

Mr and Mrs Roberts said: "We are extremely disappointed that the government has decided not to accept the recommendation of the... committee to remove the immunity from prosecution from the MoD when served with a crown censure.

'Legally accountable'

"The government states that they fail to see how losing the immunity would make improvements to the safety of military training, however, we believe that if the MoD are legally accountable for their actions then they will be more responsible and diligent in their training methods.

"We have done our best to have the immunity removed and bereaved families in the past have also tried, so we are pleased that the Defence Committee intend to pursue their interest in this matter with the MoD."

The three men were on a selection march in Powys on one of the hottest days of 2013 when they fell ill.

All three were on course to complete it within the allocated time but were found in three separate locations at different times.

Image caption The soldiers collapsed during the march while carrying 50lbs (22kg) of equipment

An inquest found they died after suffering the effects of hyperthermia - or overheating.

Coroner Louise Hunt, who ruled the men died as a result of neglect, warned there was a risk of future deaths on SAS selection marches unless action was taken.

The HSE investigation into the men's deaths found the MoD failed to plan, assess, and manage the risks associated with heat illness during the training.

'Utmost seriousness'

In its response to the 'Beyond Endurance?' report, the UK government said existing arrangements in respect of military training fatalities worked effectively as a means of ensuring lessons were learnt and mistakes were not repeated.

It said: "The MoD invariably implements any corrective measures identified by the HSE and treats crown censure as a matter of the utmost seriousness.

"It is not therefore clear how the proposed amendments to the act, which would only take effect once the MoD has been subject to a crown censure, would result in any tangible improvement to the safety of military training.

"These safeguards (to learn lessons, implement corrective measures identified by the HSE and the seriousness with which we treat crown censure), together with the ability to bring civil claims for negligence against the MoD, where a breach of a duty of care occurs within the UK or abroad, provide a strong system both for discouraging failure by the MoD and for learning lessons where things go wrong."

It added the MoD would be the focus of any civil claim whether the breach was at the highest levels of the MoD or at the immediate level at which training was carried out and it would be "extremely difficult, perhaps impossible to apply the concept of manslaughter to the role of the senior management of the MoD in permitting and setting parameters for training which is essential and which is by its nature hazardous".

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