Fri, 25 May 2012
Adam Farrer acted for the MOD at a “blue on blue” Inquest into the death of Lance Corporal Michael Pritchard. The Inquest was held in May in Eastbourne before HM Coroner Mr Craze.
On 20th December 2009 at 21.10 hours LCpl Pritchard was one of three soldiers on sentry duty on the roof of an Observation Post overlooking the main road near a Patrol Base in Sangin, Afghanistan. His job was to keep watch of the road in order to stop Insurgent attacks and IED’s being laid in the road. The road was the main supply route and had been the target of multiple IED attacks in recent weeks. The soldiers had moved into the area two days earlier in order to secure the road. In that time they had encountered heavy contact from the enemy.
Other British soldiers were based 700 metres (east) from the Observation Post in a Sangar attached to the Patrol Base. Their job was also to observe the road for enemy activity. Soldiers in the Sangar believed they saw an Insurgent IED team, laying an IED in the road about 100 metres west of the Observation Post. In the darkness it was necessary for the soldiers to use thermal imaging sights to perform their observations. After a number of warning shots a British Sniper was tasked to engage the enemy. The Sniper shot at what he believed was the enemy. Sadly he killed LCpl Pritchard (from a distance of 700 metres), who was the middle of three soldiers on the roof of the Observation Post. All three soldiers were crouched down near the compound roof’s wall. The Sniper’s bullet went between the body armour of the first soldier and then hit LCpl Pritchard, killing him.
At the conclusion of the 6 day Inquest, HM Coroner Mr Craze found that the soldiers in the Sangar had misidentified the soldiers on the roof of the Observation Post as an Insurgent IED team on the road. The Coroner returned a verdict that LCpl Pritchard was “accidentally shot whilst on active service in Afghanistan.” The Coroner concluded that the misidentification of the friendly forces occurred because the soldiers in the Sangar were unfamiliar with their surroundings as a result of having only occupied the Sangar and the Observation Post for the first time that night. The Coroner found that the soldiers and the Sniper had acted responsibly and were all convinced that they were engaging an enemy laying an IED. The Coroner stated that this was a very sad case of human error, which occurred in very difficult hostile circumstances.
The Inquest heard evidence from 28 witnesses, who gave eye witness evidence of the incident and expert evidence, relating to issues such as communications, body armour and the capability of thermal sights. The parents of LCpl Pritchard were individually represented by a QC and senior junior.
Newspaper reports on this Inquest can be found by searching “British Soldier Inquest of LCpl Pritchard.”