Soldiers cleared of 'beasting' death

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The Independent Online

Three non-commissioned officers were found not guilty today of "beasting" a private to death in punishment for his drunken behaviour.

Provost Sergeant Russell Price, 46, of 2 Rifles, physical training instructor Sergeant Paul Blake, 37, and Corporal John Edwards, 33, both from the 2nd Battalion Royal Welsh Regiment, all denied the manslaughter of Private Gavin Williams at a barracks on 3 July 2006.



During the trial at Winchester Crown Court the prosecution alleged Pte Williams, 22, from Hengoed, south Wales, was put through an intense session of physical exercise, or "beasting", at Lucknow Barracks in Tidworth, Wiltshire, to punish him for his drunken high jinks.



Pte Williams, of the Second Battalion the Royal Welsh Regiment, collapsed and died of heatstroke on one of the hottest days of 2006.



He was later admitted to hospital where tests showed his body temperature was 41.7C, way above the norm of 37C. Tests later showed he had ecstasy in his body when he died.















As the verdicts were announced, Blake put his hands together in a prayer motion and mouthed "Thank you" to the jury.

Edwards appeared to break into tears. Price's face was also full of emotion.



Following the acquittal, trial judge Mr Justice Royce attacked the Army for allowing "beasting" to take place.



He also criticised the fact that the three non-commissioned officers were placed in the dock while their commander, the adjutant Captain Mark Davis, who ordered that Pte Williams be brought to him "hot and sweaty", was in the process of being promoted.



In his summing up, the judge had asked the jury to consider whether the three defendants had been "hung out to dry" while Capt Davis was not prosecuted.



Mr Justice Royce said today: "There are matters which have arisen which would have caused anybody very considerable concern.



"The evidence has demonstrated that the practice of beasting, which clearly falls outside appropriate military discipline, was going on in these barracks openly and must have been known to senior officers.



"Many will have found it unpalatable that the order from Captain Davis to bring this man to them 'hot and sweaty' was an order that the defendants found themselves having to comply with.



"Many would have found it unpalatable that three NCOs were in the dock facing these charges and to hear he is about to be promoted.



"Lessons have to be learnt from this case by the regiment and the Army.



"This sort of activity should not be condoned and mustn't be allowed to happen again and this lesson must be clearly relayed to those in charge."



The court was told there was likely to be a board of inquiry into the practice of beasting and the circumstances surrounding the trial.

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