Crown censure for MoD over death of 21-year-old soldier
30th September 2016
Fusilier Dean Griffiths, 21, died from a gunshot wound in the neck during a live training exercise at Lydd Ranges military firing range in Kent on 14 September 2011.
The exercise required troops to enter a compound that had been designed to simulate the type of building they would encounter in Afghanistan. They were divided into two groups: an assault group to enter and secure the site, and a fire support group to provide cover.
The compound contained both enemy and civilian targets, made from thin plywood to allow the live bullets to pass through them and avoid ricochets. Unused targets were often laid on the floor to give the appearance of debris, however on this occasion one of these targets had been propped up in the wrong place, against a wooden wall.
Griffiths, who was part of the assault group, was lined up against the wall of the compound while two soldiers, followed by a safety supervisor, entered and panned left to right. As one soldier turned right, he saw the enemy target and fired two shots at it. One of the bullets went through the target and the wooden wall and hit Griffiths, who was standing on the other side.
The exercise was stopped almost immediately but Griffiths, whose partner was expecting their first child, died at the scene.
The HSE found the exercise was undermanned and two groups had been merged to cope with the lack of resources. It said the incident could have been avoided had targets not been used as debris, and the range conducting officer should have carried out a final inspection before the exercise to ensure the targets corresponded to the target plan.
The Crown censure is for breaching ss 2(1) and 2(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. The MoD admitted that its unsafe system of work and the poorly organised exercise exposed its employees to safety risks.
The Crown censure is the maximum sanction for a government body the HSE can bring. There is no financial penalty, but once accepted it is an official record of failing to meet the standards set out in law.