Failings that led to the deaths of three SAS reservists in the Brecon Beacons amounted to “criminal recklessness” on the part of Britain’s military, a leading lawyer has told a parliamentary inquiry.
An inquest found that Lance Corporal Edward Maher, Lance Corporal Craig Roberts and Corporal James Dunsby died as a result of negligence on a 16-mile march on an exceedingly hot day in 2013.
Now a specialist lawyer who acts for members of the armed forces has told MPs that “a lack of accountability by the Ministry of Defence for accidents had resulted in a blasé culture”.
In written evidence, Hilary Meredith has told a parliamentary committee investigating military deaths over the past 15 years that “a lack of intervention in the armed forces, for example, from the Health and Safety Executive, and crown censorship has resulted in a blasé culture towards accidents and attrition rates”.
An inquest into the deaths of the three reservists found that the temperature on the training day in Wales when they died was about 28C (82F), with no wind at the top of Pen y Fan. The incident and the inquest finding resulted in reports that the MoD was considering softening the training regime for Britain’s elite special forces.
The Times reported in August that test marches in the Welsh hills are to be stopped if temperatures rise to 28C or higher if combined with humid conditions.
Meredith, who runs the Cheshire law firm Hilary Meredith Solicitors, which specialises in representing members of the armed forces, told MPs: “Selection events need to remain realistic to maintain an effective military force but not at the risk of three deaths in one event as in Brecon. Mistakes made in the Brecon Beacons selection event were so extreme they verged on a reckless disregard to life.
“Risk assessments were so absent on that day as to amount to a criminally reckless regard for life. The effects of Brecon were far-reached with three bereaved families, adverse publicity and irreparable damage to the MoD.”
Responding, an MoD spokeswoman told The Times: “We have made a number of improvements to reduce the risks on exercises like these. This includes our plans to improve the tracker system used in the exercise, awareness and adherence to MoD guidance on the prevention and management of climatic illness, and the conduct of effective risk assessments.
“The Defence Safety Authority is conducting a service inquiry that will seek to identify any further lessons to prevent a recurrence of this tragedy.”