South West Wales

Michael Maguire death: Army captain guilty of manslaughter

Ranger Michael Maguire
Image caption Ranger Michael Maguire died after being shot in the head in May 2012

An Army captain has been convicted of gross negligence manslaughter at a court martial after a soldier was killed during a live fire exercise.

Capt Jonathan Price, 32, was found guilty of the death of Ranger Michael Maguire at Castlemartin, Pembrokeshire.

Ranger Maguire, 21, of Cork, Ireland, was killed by a stray bullet in 2012.

Lt Col Richard Bell and Warrant Officer Class 2 Stuart Pankhurst were found guilty of negligently performing a duty in relation to the exercise.

Nigel Lickley QC, prosecuting, told the trial at Bulford, Wiltshire, that such was Price's "total disregard for the safety of his men that a public beach 3km away and anyone on it was put at risk of being hit, such was the range of the weapons being used".

"It's fortunate there were not more casualties," he added.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption An SA80 assault rifle (pictured) and a general purpose machine gun were used in the live fire exercise

The court martial heard soldiers on one range were firing directly at those on the neighbouring range, who were about 0.6 miles (1km) away and would have been visible.

Ranger Maguire, of the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment, was one of several soldiers who came under machine gun fire and he was killed when he was shot in the forehead.

Bell and Pankhurst helped organise the May 2012 drill and an inquest held in 2013 ruled Ranger Maguire was unlawfully killed.

Image caption The Castlemartin base covers 2,400 hectares on the Pembrokeshire coast

Lt Col Chris Rose, former chief instructor to the Infantry Battle School, said Price's conduct "was not good" on the day of the shooting.

He said he failed to attend a reconnaissance of the range when preparing a Range Action Safety Plan and placed targets too close together.

Mr Lickley said: "All three men played their part in causing this catastrophe in different ways.

"The common sense of the situation is you do not point guns at people, you do not design, permit or allow an activity that allows machine guns to fire directly in line with your men, men that you know are there, men that you might be able to see, if not the vehicles that are with them."

Price, Bell and Pankhurst are expected to be sentenced on 24 July.

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