Neglect ruling in Brecon Beacons Inquest – Our response

The inquest into the deaths of 3 Army reservists closed yesterday with Louise Hunt, HM Coroner ruling that James Dunsby, Craig Roberts and Eddie Maher, died as a result of neglect.

Throughout the inquest Clare Stevens, Director at Hilary Meredith Solicitors Ltd has represented David Dunsby, father of Cpl James Dunsby.

On 13th July 2013 Cpl James Dunsby was participating in a Special Forces selection test march on the Brecon Beacons, Wales, alongside Lance Corporal Roberts and Lance Corporal Maher. The march was completed individually whilst navigating an arduous terrain in a set period of time. The soldiers were to pass through 5 manned checkpoints and were required to carry a weighted Bergen together with food, water and a weapon whilst wearing their full uniforms. The forecast showed temperatures soaring to 29-30°C. Tragically the events which unfolded led to the deaths of Lance Corporal Roberts and Lance Corporal Maher and the hospitalisation of Corporal Dunsby, who later died. All 3 soldiers died from heat injuries.

The 4 week inquest heard a catalogue of shocking evidence that candidates did not have sufficient water supplies, were collapsing from heat exhaustion prior to the deaths, that no readings were taken from a Wet Bulb Globe Temperature monitor (in breach of the military’s own guidance), that such guidance had not been read or adhered to by military personnel and no training was delivered on its contents. Risk assessments were heard to be insufficient and therefore dangerous. Furthermore the tracking devices worn by participants did not work effectively and there were emergency accessibility issues which resulted in significant delays in the injured soldiers receiving medical attention. Expert evidence from Professor Havenith suggested that if the exercise had been cancelled (in line with MOD guidance at the first sign of heat injures)  or measures had been taken to remove Corporal Dunsby for treatment of his heat injury,  he would have survived.

The inquest was adjourned on 26th June 2015 for 18 days whilst Louise Hunt considered the evidence prior to delivering her conclusions.

Commenting on today’s verdict, Clare Stevens said:

“This morning HM Coroner, Louise Hunt reached damning conclusions in relation to not only the planning and organisation of the march but also on the MoD itself, its culture, systems and approach to health and safety and in particular failure to learn lessons from previous tragedies.”

Added Clare:

“We are particularly grateful that the Coroner will be writing a report to the Ministry of Defence to raise concerns about the gross systemic failings which contributed to the deaths including the ongoing problems with the new tracker system, the measures in place for training, reassurance that the MoD have suitable guidance for detecting and treating heat illness, military culture in terms of risk assessments and build up and the lessons which have unfortunately not been learnt from the previous tragedy of Private Poole. We trust that genuine improvements will be put in place by the Ministry of Defence in order to respect and value the lost lives of James Dunsby, Craig Roberts and Eddie Maher.”