Belfast Telegraph

Officer convicted over death of soldier shot during training exercise

Ranger Maguire, from County Cork, Ireland, died after being struck in the forehead by a stray bullet from a GPMG machine gun.

An Army officer has been convicted over the killing of a 21-year-old soldier who was fatally shot during a training exercise, the Ministry of Defence said.

Captain Jonathan Price, 32, was found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence following a seven-week court martial at Bulford, Wiltshire.

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

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The family of Ranger Michael Maguire, (left to right) father Michael Maguire senior, sister Sheila Maguire and his brother Jimmy Maguire (Anthony Stone/PA)

Rgr Maguire, from County Cork, Ireland, died after being struck in the forehead by a stray bullet from a GPMG machine gun.

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

The three defendants were accused of having “a total disregard for the safety” of their men when they organised a live ammunition training exercise ahead of deployment to Kenya, the court martial heard.

One witness told the court that following the shooting Capt Price said to him: “I’ve messed up haven’t I?”

The court martial board, consisting of seven senior officers, retired on Friday morning last week to consider before returning the guilty verdicts on Wednesday.

The trio are expected to be sentenced on July 24.

At the start of the court martial, Nigel Lickley QC, prosecuting, 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.

Capt Price, now of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish, was accused of manslaughter through his failure to set up and supervise a safe exercise.

It was said that Capt Price, who was a lieutenant at the time of the incident, 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.

Col Bell, who was then a major and Capt Price’s company commander, was the senior planning officer for the exercise and was accused of failing to review or counter-sign the Rasp produced by Capt Price and failed to supervise or support him.

WO Pankhurst, who was an acting sergeant supervising the exercise involving Rgr 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.

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