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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 January 2007, 16:30 GMT
Army captain admits to 'failures'
Lance Corporal Andrew  Craw
Andrew Craw joined the Army in 1999
An army captain in charge of a live firing range where a young soldier died has admitted he failed to ensure vital safety equipment was in place.

An inquest heard Capt William Scrase-Dickins admit that if had not neglected his duties, 21-year-old Andrew Craw would not have been killed.

The soldier accidentally shot himself when trying to unblock his machine gun in January 2004.

No ambulance or medic was there before shooting started, violating army rules.

Capt Scrase-Dickins, the range conducting officer, conceded that it had been a dereliction of his duty to ignore the strict regulations.

L/Cpl Craw, of Tullibody, Clackmannanshire, was one of 44 soldiers deployed to serve with the 1st Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders on 6 January, 2004.

'Rushed training'

However the inquiry heard that the unit received "rushed training". Earlier in the inquest Sgt Callum Wilkinson claimed he was "furious" about not being given adequate time to train his men.

The incident happened on 7 January when soldiers were taken to learn how to use new Belgian-made Minimi light machine guns on a range in Basra, despite having had just a couple of hours' sleep.

The mens' guns jammed repeatedly in torrential rain and the shoot was eventually called off. However L/Cpl Craw tried to unjam his gun by kicking it into the cocked position with his hand over the barrel.

It went off, shooting him through the hand and in the head and he died shortly afterwards.

Had you done your job properly, no soldier would have fired on that range that day, and L/Cpl Craw would not have died
Andrew Walker
Oxfordshire assistant deputy coroner

Giving evidence at what is expected to be the final day of the inquest before the coroner gives his verdict, Capt Scrase-Dickins said he had been under the impression that the men had been adequately trained before they arrived at the range and that he was solely to provide a familiarisation exercise.

Though he had initially been told they would be staying for three days of training, this was later compressed to just one, putting him under severe time pressures.

Asked by Andrew Walker, Oxfordshire assistant deputy coroner, if a lack of time was behind his decision to press forward, he said: "In its entirety - that's why I had to go ahead."

The inquest heard he requested an ambulance, laid down as essential in the rules for live firing ranges, and a 10-man medical kit, but because of time shortages none was available.

Capt Scrase-Dickins had a satellite phone but only discovered that the communications system was down when he tried to call for help following the shooting, and the young soldiers had to wait over an hour for medical assistance.

"Had you done your job properly, no soldier would have fired on that range that day, and L/Cpl Craw would not have died," added Mr Walker.

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