MoD issued with maximum sanction – a Crown Censure – over training exercise death

In hiding behind crown immunity, MoD is defying the will of a Parliamentary Inquiry and flying in the face of public opinion say military lawyers

The MoD has been issued with a Crown Censure by the Health and Safety Executive over the death of Fusilier Dean Griffiths, who was shot in the neck on a training exercise in 2011.

By accepting the Crown Censure, the MoD admitted breaching its duty under Section 2(1) and 2(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 in that it exposed employees to risks to their health, safety and welfare.  At present, the MoD cannot face prosecution in the same way as non-Government bodies and a Crown Censure is the maximum sanction for a government body that the HSE can bring.

Earlier this year, the Beyond Endurance Inquiry, which was set up after the deaths of three army reservists during a training exercise on Brecon Beacons, recommended that the MoD should be stripped of its historic immunity from prosecution when personnel are killed during training as a result of a serious failing in its duty of care.  In its response, the MoD rejected this proposal.

Hilary Meredith, CEO at Hilary Meredith Solicitors Ltd, provided evidence to the Beyond Endurance Inquiry.  She believes the MoD’s refusal to accept the Inquiry’s recommendation is a “scandal”.

Said Hilary:

“In hiding behind crown immunity, the MoD is defying the will of a Parliamentary Inquiry and flying in the face of public opinion.  It is a scandal.

“Whilst training has to be realistic, it cannot result in death.  These are not mere accidents.  This is about a blatant disregard for life and the MoD needs to be held accountable.

“Removing crown immunity would push the MoD to improve its standards and ultimately save lives.”

Clare Stevens, Director at Hilary Meredith Solicitors, represented the father of Corporal James Dunby – one of three SAS reservists who died from heat exhaustion on Brecon Beacons – at the Inquest in to the deaths.

Said Clare:

“The MoD repeatedly says it learns the lessons and then another death or injury occurs in circumstances which are almost identical and it becomes clear the lesson has been forgotten, if it was learned properly at all.

“Crown censures are a half-measure. All the evidence suggests there needs to be greater accountability. The best way to achieve that is to remove Crown immunity and let the Ministry of Defence be properly accountable in law. Only then will their minds be properly focused.”