By Rod Minchin,
AN Army officer has been jailed for 18 months after being convicted over the killing of a 21-year-old Bantry soldier who was shot during a training exercise.
Captain Jonathan Price, 32, was also dismissed from the Army, after being found guilty last month of the manslaughter of Ranger Michael Maguire by gross negligence following a seven-week court martial in the UK.
Two other officers, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Bell, 46, and Warrant Officer Stuart Pankhurst, 40, were convicted of negligently performing a duty.
Col Bell lost one year’s seniority as a lieutenant colonel, which could affect his promotion prospects, while WO2 Pankhurst was fined £3,000.
Rgr Maguire was one of several soldiers who came under machine gun fire during an exercise in May 2012 for members of the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment.
Rgr Maguire, from Bantry, died after being hit in the forehead by a stray bullet from a machine gun.
The three defendants were accused of having ‘a total disregard for the safety’ of their men when they organised a live ammunition exercise ahead of deployment to Kenya.
After the shooting Capt Price, who was a lieutenant at the time, said to one witness: ‘I’ve messed up, haven’t I?’
The court heard that soldiers on one part of range 10 were firing directly at those in another part of the range, who were about 1km away and would have been visible.
Capt Price, now of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish, failed to set up and supervise a safe exercise, failed to attend a recce of the range when preparing a range action safety plan (Rasp), placed targets too close together and failed to ‘deconflict’ the two exercises.
Mathew Sherratt QC, representing Capt Price, said he had recently married and had a 10-year-old stepson and urged the court to impose a suspended sentence.
Passing sentence on behalf of the court martial board, Assistant Judge Advocate General Alan Large said the board had reduced the sentence from a starting point of four years after taking into account Capt Price’s exemplary service to the country, including a tour to Afghanistan.