British Army officer, Captain Jonathan Price, was found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence over the killing of a 21-year-old Irish soldier who was fatally shot during a training exercise. Two other officers, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Bell and Warrant Officer Stuart Pankhurst were also convicted of negligently performing a duty.
In May 2012, in anticipation of a deployment to Kenya, a training exercise was conducted at the Castlemartin Training Area in Pembrokeshire for members of the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment. The exercise, during which several soldiers came under machine gun fire, was supervised by Captain Price. Ranger Michael Maguire, from County Cork, died when he was struck in the forehead by a stray bullet from a GPMG machine gun.
The seven-week court-martial board consisted of seven senior officers and was held in Bulford, Wiltshire.
At the beginning of the court martial, Nigel Lickley QC on behalf of the prosecution said soldiers on one part of range 10 were firing directly at those in another part of the range, who were about one kilometre away and would have been visible.
Captain Price was accused of manslaughter due to an alleged failure to set up and supervise a safe firing exercise. It was alleged that Captain Price had failed to attend a recce of the range when preparing a Range Action Safety Plan (“RASP”), that he had placed targets too close together and that he had failed to “deconflict” the two exercises. Reconnaissance or scouting, known in the military as a recce, is an exploration of a particular area to gather information or to note features of the environment or conditions prior to its use.
Lieutenant Colonel Bell (Captain Price’s company commander) was the senior planning officer for the firing exercise and was accused of failing to review or counter-sign the RASP produced by Captain Price. Furthermore, it was alleged that Lieutenant Colonel Bell failed to supervise or support Captain Price with the exercise.
Warrant Officer Pankhurst (an acting sergeant supervising the exercise involving Ranger Maguire on area 10A), was 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 area 10B.
The court martial heard that all three defendants were accused of having “a total disregard for the safety” of their men when they organised the live ammunition training exercise.
Verdict and Sentencing
The board gave guilty verdicts on Wednesday 4 July 2018 and sentencing is expected to be given on 24 July 2018.