A Dundee woman said she is “angry and disappointed” about the failures that led to her partner dying during an Army training exercise in the Highlands.
Lance Corporal Joe Spencer, of 3rd Battalion The Rifles, died at RAF Tain in the Scottish Highlands on November 1 2016 after his sniper rifle was accidentally discharged while he rested his chin on the weapon.
A report by the Defence Safety Authority said there had been a “series of errors, shortfalls and poor judgement” at the training exercise which meant his death was an “avoidable accident”.
Originally from Hampshire, Lance Corporal Spencer had been living in Broughty Ferry with his partner Cherycce Connelly.
She said: “The report details far more failings than we could ever have anticipated and to say I am both angry and disappointed with its findings would be an understatement.
She added: “Joe deserved better. 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 report stated: “Whilst resting his chin on the weapon’s suppressor, equipment or clothing most probably snagged the rifle’s trigger inadvertently, resulting in its discharge.
“That his weapon was in an unsafe condition with a round chambered was extremely likely to have been caused by an incomplete unload drill being carried out earlier that day.”
It continued: “Whilst the initiative shown by the SNCOs (senior non commissioned officers) in wanting to conduct an SOC (Sniper Operators’ Course) is commendable, a series of errors, shortfalls and poor judgement conspired and ended in the death of a capable and highly-regarded JNCO (junior non commissioned officer).”
The report said poor supervision and a failure to follow mandated procedures were themes of the Service Inquiry report and and the “post-accident response fell short in a number of areas”.
It said there had been lower levels of supervision throughout the course and specifically on the day of the soldier’s death.
Lance Corporal Spencer’s family said released a statement expressing their disappointment at the report, which they said “raises numerous unanswered questions due to the abundance of unsubstantiated speculations and assumptions and factual inaccuracies and inconsistencies”.
The statement added: “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.
“We strongly believe Joe would still be with us today if they had.”
An Army spokeswoman said: “Our thoughts remain with Lance Corporal Joe Spencer’s friends and family at this difficult time.
“The safety and welfare of our personnel is of the utmost importance and we will now carefully consider the recommendations which have been made by the Service Inquiry.”