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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 June 2007, 03:43 GMT 04:43 UK
Q&A: Inquiries into captured navy
Two inquiries into the capture of 15 Royal Navy personnel by Iran identify "shortcomings", but have said no one person was to blame. BBC defence correspondent Paul Wood answers some key questions.

Did the reports come to any conclusion about how the navy personnel were captured?

Only the most general conclusions have been made public.

Some of the captured navy personnel
Some of the crew members during a press conference

The First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, told us that tactical information which might affect current and future operations couldn't be made public.

So we don't know why HMS Cornwall didn't spot the approaching threat on radar, or there was no air cover. The Fulton report does talk about failures in intelligence. In other words it should have been obvious to the navy that there was a risk of Iranian kidnap in the Gulf.

Does Des Browne accept any government blame when he talks about "collective failure of judgement"?

He has personally apologised for the errors which allowed some of the freed captives to sell their stories to the tabloid media.

It's not clear from the Fulton report, or from Mr Browne's statement in the Commons, where exactly blame should fall for the military mistakes.

Was this a failure of the high command, or of the individual sailors and marines? There was not one big catastrophic error, but a series of small mistakes, said General Fulton.

No one should be court martialled, but certain individuals could have done more to stop what happened.

As for government responsibility, in ordering these two inquiries, the defence secretary employed the time honoured device of kicking the issue into the long grass to take the heat off. It worked.

What changes will be made in navy operations to ensure British sailors are not placed in danger again?

The MoD says it has already implemented some of General Fulton's recommendations and will make sure that all the lessons are learned. The boarding parties sent to the Gulf will now be better trained.

"A general operational sharpness is necessary," said Admiral Band. Again, the specific recommendations of General Fulton's report are deemed too operationally sensitive to release.

Did the furore over crew members selling their stories damage relations between the navy and the public?

Yes, as well as causing a lot of turmoil and soul-searching within the military.

"A proud navy is hurt by something like this," Admiral Band told reporters, acknowledging the "anger and disappointment" even within the navy.

The initial embarrassment of being seized at gunpoint was compounded by the sale of the stories.

The First Sea Lord asked people to remember that all this had ended successfully, in that the 15 captives were freed unharmed. But this was a military, PR, and diplomatic disaster, whichever way you spin it.

Will it be easy for any "gagging" order on armed forces personnel to be enforced?

The conclusion of the report by the BBC's former head of news, Tony Hall, said serving personnel should not be allowed to sell their stories. No exceptions.

But what about family members? And what about Private Johnson Beharry, paid for writing a book about his VC experiences, which he was allowed to do while still in uniform.

Here, Mr Hall admitted in his report, things get a little more complex. It will be very hard to enforce such rules the next time there is a big story.

Overall Mr Hall's report concluded there had been a serious breakdown in trust between the media and the MoD - and that had to be repaired.

The full report is worth reading.

PCC 'offered media help' to MoD
13 Apr 07 |  UK Politics

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