Ranger death accused ‘not told he would have gained from more supervision’

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An Army officer accused of the manslaughter of a young soldier who died in a live shooting exercise was not told he would have “benefited from increased levels of supervision” in running training, a court heard.

Captain Jonathan Price, 32, is accused of the manslaughter by gross negligence of Ranger Michael Maguire at a military range.

The 21-year-old, from County Cork, Ireland, was shot in the forehead and killed during the exercise which was preparing the troops for deployment to Kenya.

Rgr Maguire, of the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment, was one of several soldiers who came under machine gun fire during the exercise at the Castlemartin Training Area in Pembrokeshire in May 2012.

Capt Price, now of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish, is accused of failing to set up and supervise a safe exercise.

The prosecution allege Capt Price failed to attend a recce of the range when preparing a Range Action Safety Plan (Rasp), that he placed targets too close together and he failed to “deconflict” the two exercises.

Lieutenant Colonel Chris Rose was giving expert evidence as a former chief instructor to the Infantry Battle School and had reviewed Capt Price’s planning in relation to Pamphlet 21, the Army regulations for live firing exercises.

He said that in his opinion Capt Price’s Rasp was poor and that his conduct on the day Rgr Maguire died was not good.

Col Rose told the court martial in Bulford, Wiltshire: “There were a lot of rules and regulations that were not followed.”

Mathew Sherratt QC, representing Capt Price, said his client had been given a B minus grading in his live fire tactical training course.

“They are saying he would benefit from increased levels of supervision,” Mr Sherratt said of Capt Price’s course report.

“Capt Price gives a statement in which he says he was not aware of this requirement for levels of supervision. There is no evidence he was sat down and taken through the course report.”

The court heard there was a very high pass rate and Mr Sherratt said: “So much will depend on his level of competence in completing that course.

“It would be difficult to criticise him for leaving that course not at the standard he should have been.

“As a hypothesis, if he was not competent when he had passed the course but had been passed, would it be difficult to criticise him?”

Col Rose replied: “Yes.”

The officer agreed with the suggestion that an important issue was how the switch fire target – in which the bullet that killed Rgr Maguire had been aimed at – had come to be positioned.

Mr Sherratt said: “The first issue to consider is competence and you have said that he was not of the standard of a reasonably competent range conducting officer.”

Col Rose replied: “I make the point that the siting of the switch fire target was incorrect. I have no knowledge of the conduct he did on May 1 but his conduct on May 2 was not good.”

He added: “I reviewed the Rasp against what I expect a young officer to deliver… it’s a poor Rasp.

“If the company second in command or senior planning officer or course director read the Rasp they should have identified issues with it.”

Two other officers, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Bell, 45, and Warrant Officer Stuart Pankhurst, 40, are both accused of negligently performing a duty.

Lt Col Bell, the senior planning officer, is accused of failing to review or counter-sign the Rasp produced by Capt Price and failing to supervise or support him.

Staff Sgt Pankhurst, who was supervising the exercise involving Rgr Maguire on Range 10A, is accused of failing to express any caution or concern despite having attended the recce and having knowledge of the extent of the adjacent shooting on Range 10B.

All three defendants deny the charges and the trial before a board of seven senior officers continues.

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