The British Ministry of Defence should face the same threat of prosecution as any other workplace if its employees die at work, the House of Commons Defence Select Committee has said. The committee of MPs which oversees defence in the UK, the Ministry's crown immunity from corporate manslaughter laws "must change".
"The lives of serving personnel are worth no less than those of civilians and those responsible for their deaths must be equally liable under the law," said the committee in a statement.
At present, the MoD has a special exemption to the law that applies to most employers in this country, and cannot be taken to court even if clear failings leading to a death at work have been uncovered.
Since the start of 2000, 135 military personnel have died during training. In 11 of these cases, the Health and Safety Executive was forced to issue what is known as "a crown censure", a largely symbolic penalty – in the same situations, a private employer would have been heavily fined, or even had executives jailed.
Family of the three men who died on an SAS selection course in the Brecon Beacons in 2013 have welcomed the committee's intervention. Without its immunity, the MoD would have been prosecuted for their deaths, after an inquest found they had been neglected on a 16-mile march.
David Dunsby, the father of one of the men who died, told Sky News: "I still think there's a macho culture. They want to keep pushing these men and that's fair enough. They've got to be pushed, but how far do you want to push training? You can push it to the limits but the MOD doesn't have a license to kill."
In a statement, the MoD said: "The safety of our personnel is an absolute priority and, while each death is tragic, deaths in training are rare. We are grateful for the committee's acknowledgement of how seriously we take the risks associated with training and that we are moving in the right direction.
"We acknowledge that more needs to be done, which is why we set up the Defence Safety Authority last year. We will now carefully consider this report and respond in due course."