New figures show that more injuries are caused during training than in any other activity for full-time members of the Armed Forces.
The figures have been published in the same week as families and lawyers call on the Ministry of Defence to be stripped of its immunity from prosecution after two SAS servicemen were acquitted of negligently performing a duty over a selection exercise in which three reservists died.
In 2017/18, 52% of total injuries amongst the UK Armed Forces occurred in training – with 13% of those taking place on adventure training. The report also shows five of the 13 fatalities in that period have been linked to safety. The deaths include two during live fire, one in an aircraft accident, one in a vehicle accident, and another while diving.
Training (including adventure training) was the event with the greatest percentage of injury incidents amongst UK Regular Armed Forces personnel (52%), followed by Normal Duties (26%) and then Sport/Recreation (22%).
Within the 52% figure for training injuries – 3,384 injuries – a total of 441 injuries (13%) took place on adventure training, 444 (13%) on exercise, and 896 (26%) during physical training which includes endurance training.
Commenting on the figures, Hilary Meredith, Chair of Hilary Meredith Solicitors and Visiting Professor of Law and Veterans’ Affairs at the University of Chester said:
“These figures clearly show that the MoD is failing in its duty of care towards servicemen and women.
“Despite all the warnings, the MoD’s health and safety performance is actually getting worse.
“Military personnel are suffering serious injuries because the MoD is negligently failing to follow its own safety rules.
“It is also a fact that more men and women die while training for war than in war – and this cannot be acceptable on any front. We acknowledge that training has to be realistic but not to the point of death.”
“Crown immunity is preventing the MoD from being properly held to account for its poor health and safety record.
“If there are no sanctions that are then put in place if something goes wrong there is hardly anything there to push the MoD to improve their standards.
“Without a means to prosecution they are going to be more reactive to things happening rather than proactive.
“Removing crown immunity would push the MoD to improve its standards and ultimately save lives. If the MoD believes deaths in training improve safety on the battlefield they are gravely mistaken. Most training deaths are caused by poor procedures which come from the top. Nothing will ever change until proper sanctions are put in the place. The MoD should not be above the law.”
Hilary says the two men acquitted of negligence after overseeing the SAS selection march on Brecon Beacons should never have been put on trial.
“There is a wider issue that emerges from this tragedy and it reflects appallingly on the MoD.
“After the deaths of the three reservists on Brecon Beacons, a parliamentary inquiry – Beyond Endurance – was set up.
“I provided evidence at the Inquiry calling for the MoD to lose its historic immunity from prosecution when armed forces personnel are killed during training.
“In a landmark recommendation, the Beyond Endurance Inquiry agreed that crown censures should be removed in cases where there has been a blatant disregard for life.
“Scandalously however the MoD rejected this proposal. In continuing to hide behind crown immunity, the MoD defied the will of the parliamentary inquiry and the weight of public opinion, effectively saying that it would rather shift the blame to the men and women on the ground. That remains the case today.”