Brecon Beacons Court Martial begins today but military lawyer says the Ministry of Defence (MoD) should be in the dock

Two soldiers face a court martial, beginning today, for negligence in relation to the deaths of three reservists, who died after a 16-mile training march in the Brecon Beacons – but military lawyer Hilary Meredith says it is the MoD that should be in the dock.
The men, named only as 1A and 1B, both deny the single charge of “negligently performing a duty” by failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of the reservists taking part in the march in July 2013.
1A is a serving captain who was the training officer in charge of the march, and 1B, a former warrant officer, was the chief instructor on the exercise.
Lance Corporal Edward Maher and Lance Corporal Craig Roberts were pronounced dead on the Brecon Beacons after suffering heatstroke.
Corporal James Dunsby died from multiple organ failure more than two weeks later.  Hilary Meredith Solicitors represented his father at the Inquest into his death.
A panel of five military personnel will adjudicate the three-week trial beginning today and the pair could face up to two years in prison and dismissal if convicted.
Commenting on the case, Hilary Meredith, Chair of Hilary Meredith Solicitors and Visiting Professor of Law and Veterans’ Affairs at the University of Chester said:
“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.
“At the time of the Brecon Beacons deaths, and as the law stood, a crown censure was the maximum sanction that the Health and Safety Executive could impose on the MoD.  The MoD was exempt from criminal prosecution through a privilege called crown immunity, allowing defence officials to avoid being held accountable for their health and safety record.”
Continued Hilary:
“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.
“As this court martial begins, I am again calling on the MoD to face up to its responsibilities and accept the recommendations of the Beyond Endurance Inquiry.  Their refusal to do so is an insult to the hundreds of men and men who have lost their lives in training exercises.
“Whilst army training has to be realistic, it should never result in death. If there has been a blatant disregard for life the MoD needs to be held accountable.  Crown censures are an inadequate means by which to hold the MoD accountable.”
Concluded Hilary:
“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.”