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British soldier will not be charged over death of comrade in Afghanistan

A British soldier will not face prosecution over the death of a comrade on an Afghan battlefield four years ago, an inquest has heard.

The inquest into Lance Corporal James Brynin's death was halted after six days of evidence last year amid fears the fatality, which was initially suspected to have been caused by "friendly fire", may have been a homicide.

L/Cpl Brynin, 22, who was born in Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, was shot dead on an operation in central Helmand Province on October 15 2013.

He was part of a troop carrying out intelligence work on the Taliban in the area of Kakaran, north east of Lashkar Gah. Despite receiving immediate medical attention, L/Cpl Brynin, known as Jay, died at the scene.

At the resumed inquest in Arundel, West Sussex senior coroner Penelope Schofield said Lance Corporal of Horse Mark Kelly will not be charged by the service authorities over his death due to "insufficient evidence of a homicide offence".

Relatives of L/Cpl Brynin were informed of the decision on November 30 last year, Ms Schofield added.

Lieutenant Colonel Edward Hayward, the commanding officer (CO) of the Household Cavalry Regiment, choked back tears as he spoke about the "profound effect" the fatal shooting had had on L/Cpl of Horse Kelly.

He recalled a meeting he had with L/Cpl of Horse Kelly during which he broke down in tears.

Lt Col Hayward said: "He is a fairly experienced soldier and I said, 'How are you coping?' And he said, 'Fine'.

"And then I asked him to pause. I told him that today was the first day of the rest of his life when he would have to live with the knowledge he had killed one of his fellow soldiers, and then he broke down."

L/Cpl of Horse Kelly had possibly been "in denial" about the events and had put on a "brave face" up until his acceptance of what had happened, Lt Col Hayward added.

Lt Col Hayward, who became CO of the regiment after the death of L/Cpl Brynin, said L/Cpl of Horse Kelly had undergone and passed mandated training and additional training since the fatality, and now exhibits "more care and rigour".

"Having spoken to him and seen the change in him, I would consider him now amongst the safest soldiers in the Army," Lt Col Hayward said. "Like a lot of us, we tend to learn a lot from our mistakes rather than get it right all the time."

No concerns were raised about L/Cpl of Horse Kelly during his training. And there had been "external validation" of L/Cpl of Horse Kelly's training since the death "so that it wasn't just about us marking our own homework", he said.

L/Cpl Brynin's mother Sharon left the courtroom as Lt Col Hayward added such "blue-on-blue" incidents were a "risk of the profession".

Asked by Ms Schofield what he would like to say to L/Cpl Brynin's family, Lt Col Hayward said: "Nothing I can say can bring back your son."

Lt Col Hayward said he would be happy for L/Cpl of Horse Kelly to be deployed again.

He added: "I have never been surprised by a good soldier on operation not being good."

The family of L/Cpl Brynin only found out he was killed by friendly fire three months after he was fatally shot, the inquest also heard.

Colonel Timothy Simpson, based at British Army HQ in Andover, Hampshire, said the first indication the death was caused by friendly fire was following the post-mortem examination.

He said the post-mortem identified the calibre of round - Nato 556 - used in the shooting, indicating the fatal shot may have been fired by one of their soldiers.

Col Simpson said there was no single document outlining the lessons the Army has learned from the death, and a decision on whether to launch a service inquiry has not been made.

"There have been a number of steps taken to identify the lessons subsequent to it becoming apparent it was a blue on blue," said Col Simpson.

"As for whether there is a single document to learn about this incident, no there isn't."

The coroner is expected to deliver her conclusion on Tuesday following final submissions by representatives for the Ministry of Defence and L/Cpl Brynin.


From Belfast Telegraph