Sniper killed on training course after big boys rules led to poor

Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. LCpl Spencer sustained a single gunshot wound to the head and was pronounced dead at the scene on Tain Air Weapons Range in the north of Scotland in November 2016. He had been undergoing training along with 21 other students on a Sniper Operators’ Course at the time of his death. Lance Corporal Joe Spencer and Cherycce Connelly. Lance Corporal Joe Spencer and Cherycce Connelly.Credit:Family photo Criticising the report, LCpl Spencer’s family said there were “numerous unanswered questions due to the abundance of unsubstantiated speculations and assumptions and factual inaccuracies and inconsistencies”.“It is clear to us the individuals responsible for delivering the Sniper Training Course did not do so in accordance with the mandated course syllabus and requisite rules and regulations,” they said.“We strongly believe Joe would still be with us today if they had complied.”LCpl Spencer’s partner, Cherycce Connelly, 24, a learning and care assistant at a specialist needs school in Dundee, described the events leading to the accident as shambolic. Many of the errors were “needless, neglectful and selfish, behaviour which does not reflect the duty of care that the Army owes to its servicemen and women,” she said.“He was not on active deployment in a war zone. He was in training where risk to life should have been minimal. Joe should have come home.” The incident occurred when students were waiting to conduct a night shoot on the range. The report found that a lack of supervision had allowed LCpl Spencer to leave the firing point earlier in the afternoon without unloading his sniper rifle correctly. As a result, there was still a round in the weapon’s chamber as the group waited with for night to fall.LCpl Spencer was observed resting the butt of his rifle on his boot, with the suppressor, located at the end of the barrel, under his chin. The Inquiry concluded that as he bounced the rifle up and down the trigger snagged on a piece of equipment lying on the floor, resulting in the weapon functioning.LCpl Spencer had been in the Army for five years and, as well as operational service in Afghanistan, had deployed to Kenya and the USA as a soldier in 3rd Battalion, The Rifles. He had been rated as the top soldier in his Company having won the ‘Chosen Man’ competition. The L115A3 Sniper Rifle is a personal weapon issued to trained snipers in the dismounted close combat role in the armed forces. A bolt-action rifle, it fires a .338″ (8.59mm) round fed by a five-round magazine. In operation since 2008, the weapon is 1265 mm long and weighs 7.81 kg.  The Army snipers’ culture of ‘big boys rules’ led to the death of a trainee marksman who shot himself in the face, a report has found.Soldiers on a training course were “mistakenly held in higher regard than their limited sniper competencies and experience merited,” a Service Inquiry has concluded, due to the “culture, ethos and camaraderie [of] organisations considered special or elite”.The inquiry into the accident which killed Lance Corporal (LCpl) Joe Spencer, said inadequate safety supervision and poor leadership had led directly to the fatal shooting.Unsafe behaviour and practices had been allowed to go unchallenged and mandated procedures were ignored. “There were many opportunities where getting this right might have broken the chain of events,” Air Marshal Sir Richard Garwood, the Director General of the Defence Safety Authority said.The report said that soldiers with a specialised role who had achieved a high level of training often felt they needed less supervision, a culture Air Marshal Garwood described as “big boys rules”. Whilst such an attitude might be appropriate in “special [or] elite” units, he said allowing it to exist on the Sniper Operators’ Course was “particularly inappropriate” and had resulted in “lower levels of supervision”. read more

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