Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

September 30, 2016

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Crown Censure for MoD after solider killed in training

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been issued with a Crown Censure by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after a 21-year-old soldier died when he was shot in the neck on a training exercise. Whilst there is no financial penalty associated with Crown Censure, now it is accepted it is an official record of a failing to meet the standards set out in law.

Fusilier Dean Griffiths, whose partner was expecting their first child, received a fatal bullet wound to the neck on 14 September 2011 during a ‘live’ training exercise at Lydd Ranges military firing range in Kent. An inquest in 2013 heard a target was wrongly placed against a wall but there was no evidence it was malicious.

The incident

The exercise involved troops approaching a specially built ‘shoot through’ compound (not designed to capture rounds), that had been created to simulate the type of building the troops would encounter in Afghanistan.

The Company were split into an assault group to enter and secure the compound and a fire support group to provide cover. The compound contained both enemy and civilian targets in order to train the troops’ judgment. The targets were made from thin plywood to allow the live bullets pullets to pass through them and avoid ricochets.

The HSE  investigation found it was usual practice on site that unused targets were laid on the floor to give the appearance of debris. However, on this instance an unused target had been stood up in the wrong place.

Fusilier Griffiths was part of the assault group, and was lined up against the wall of the compound while the wall was breached with a simulated explosion. Two colleagues entered the compound, followed by a safety supervisor, and panned left and right to deal with any initial enemy combatants.

HSE’s investigation found that as one of the troops entered and turned right he saw an enemy target and fired two shots at the target. Almost immediately someone shouted for the exercise to stop and all the men laid down their weapons.

Fusilier Griffiths had been shot as he lined up on the other side of the compound wall. The bullet had passed through the incorrectly placed enemy target, through the compound wall and hit Fusilier Griffiths in the neck. He died at the scene.

The failings

The HSE investigaton discovered that:

  • the exercise was undermanned;
  • two groups had been merged to cope with the lack of resource; and
  • the incident could have been prevented by not using targets as debris on the compound and by introducing a final walk through before each run through by the RCO (Range Conducting Officer) to ensure all targets corresponded to the target plan for the exercise.

The Crown Censure

By accepting the Crown Censure, the MoD admitted breaching its duty under Section 2(1) and 2(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 in that they exposed their employees to risks to their health, safety and welfare. Those risks manifested themselves in a lack of a Safe System of Work at and the manner in which the exercise was organised.

The MoD cannot face prosecution in the same way as non-Government bodies and a Crown Censure is the maximum sanction for a government body that HSE can bring.

Earlier this year the HSE administered a Crown Censure to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) over the deaths of three soldiers on a training exercise in the Brecon Beacons in July 2013.


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Mustafa Hussain
Mustafa Hussain
7 years ago

This is surely a tragedy where someone needs to be held accountable. There has been an increasing number of fatalities related to MoD training.

Agree training needs to create an element of risk to make it meaningful and effective. Also there is very little to gain in fining a public body.

How does this bureaucratic exercise help to provide the family with closure.

Rolf Clayton
Rolf Clayton
7 years ago

The army has a system of punishments for breaches of orders etc. and in theory these can be imposed on any rank so there is no good reason why the person responsible, whatever their rank, cannot be punished. It would be good to learn that the consequence of a Crown Censure always leads to responsible person being punished in some way which underlines the importance of Health & Safety even in military circumstances. After all, we expect the army to conform to the Geneva Conventions so it should conform to H&S legislation.