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SAS officers acquitted of negligence over a Brecon Beacons march in which three reservists died

Two SAS servicemen have been acquitted of negligently performing a duty over a march in which three reservists died, after a judge ruled they had no case to answer.

The men, known only as 1A and 1B, denied the allegation that they failed to take reasonable care for the health and safety of candidates taking part in the 16-mile march in the Brecon Beacons on July 13, 2013.

Lance Corporal Craig Roberts and L/Cpl Edward Maher were pronounced dead on the Welsh mountain range after suffering heatstroke on July 13 2013.

Corporal James Dunsby died at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital from multiple organ failure more than two weeks later.

Speaking exclusively to ITV News Corporal James Dunsby's father explained who he believes is to blame for the death of his son.

He said he "accuses the guys in block A", which is essentially the place the SAS is run from.

In a statement outside Bulford Crown Court Centre in Wiltshire, the widow of Corporal James Dunsby, Bryher Dunsby, said the lack of official guidance for those conducting endurance training marches in the British Army was "beyond unacceptable."

1A and 1B, whose identities are protected by an anonymity order, went on trial at the Court Martial Centre in Bulford, Wiltshire, last Monday.The servicemen, who were the safety officers for the march, were acquitted by a five-person board on the direction of Jeff Blackett, Judge Advocate General.

ITV News Wales and West of England Correspondent Rupert Evelyn reported the "prosecution will not appeal".

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1A was a captain and the training officer in charge of the march, while 1B was a warrant officer and the chief instructor on the exercise.

Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett ruled the defendants had no case to answer and directed the five-person panel to acquit them of the charge against them.

He told the families of the three reservists: “The allegations of negligent performance of duty were only a small part in the overall failings – the deaths occurred because of the systemic failures within Joint Forces Command.

The soldiers were on the Brecon Beacons. Credit: PA

“Of course, the system is made up of people but there have been successive people in A-Block and within the chain of command who have failed to address their minds to the real risks involved in exercising in extreme temperatures, and who have failed to ensure that those delivering the training or invigilating the test were properly trained in all aspects.

“These two defendants did the best they could in the circumstances of fewer resources than requested, a lack of even the most basic of training in relation to heat illness and risk assessment and within the culture that existed at the time.”

An anonymity order protects the identity of a number of people and organisations that feature in the court martial.

This includes “MoD A-Block”, which refers to an organisation within Joint Forces Command.

The media applied to identify A-Block, after evidence by the Health and Safety Executive during the court martial placed the blame for what happened “fairly and squarely” with the organisation.

Lewis Cherry, solicitor for the two defendants, makes a statement outside Bulford Crown Court Centre in Wiltshire following the acquittal of the two SAS servicemen over the deaths of three reservists. Credit: PA

Judge Blackett refused this application and said he would not give further clarification as to the identity of A-Block.

Thirty-seven reservists and 41 regular troops took part in the exercise, which was part of the aptitude phase for selection for a special military unit.

The march was 26km or 16 miles as the crow flies – though those taking part were expected to cover almost 30km or 18.5 miles – and had to be completed in eight hours 45 minutes.

Candidates carried a bergen, a backpack, weighing between 22 and 27kg as well as a dummy rifle.

Those who voluntarily withdrew from the march, or were withdrawn on medical grounds, failed.

Temperatures reached 26.3C from midday on the day of the march and had risen to 28.3C by 4pm.

Prosecuting, Louis Mably QC confirmed that he would not seek leave to appeal the judge’s decision.

L/Cpl Roberts was originally from Penrhyn Bay in North Wales, L/Cpl Maher, was from Winchester in Hampshire, and Cpl Dunsby was from Trowbridge in Wiltshire.