Commission of Inquiry report into the death of Lance Corporal Mason Edwards
10 June 2014
A Commission of Inquiry into the death of Lance Corporal Mason Edwards found that he was fatally wounded and another soldier injured when they became located behind designated targets during a live fire night training exercise.
The soldiers were taking part in an exercise at the Cultana Training Area in South Australia in October 2009 as part of mission-specific training in preparation for deployment to Afghanistan.
While the Commission of Inquiry found this accident could have been avoided, the Commission considered that Lance Corporal Edwards, through no fault of his own, was not aware of the danger he was in. In this respect, Lance Corporal Edwards was not responsible for his death.
Upon receipt of the Commission of Inquiry report, steps were immediately taken to improve safety procedures by implementing the report’s recommendations. These included changes to procedures for briefings before live-fire exercises, changes to the way such exercises are conducted, and changes to the training areas in which they are conducted.
The Commission made a number of findings in relation to five members involved in the incident. Defence examined the actions of all members involved in the training exercise and also considered the findings from other investigations and inquiries conducted into this incident.
Administrative action was considered against five members who were the subject of findings in the report and two others involved in the incident. Administrative action was initiated against six individuals, and after due process and careful consideration, adverse consequences were imposed on three of them. Action was not initiated against the seventh individual because he was already the subject of administrative action for other matters.
At various times before, during and after the Commission of Inquiry hearings, the death of Lance Corporal Edwards was the subject of scrutiny by a number of agencies within and outside of Defence. A decision has not previously been made on public disclosure of the report primarily to avoid prejudice to those ongoing investigations. All inquiries and investigations into this incident by Defence and other external agencies have now been completed.
Defence provided a copy of the Commission of Inquiry report to Lance Corporal Edwards’s immediate family and briefed them on the findings of the inquiry. Extracts from the report were also provided to members represented at the Commission of Inquiry.
After weighing the wishes of Lance Corporal Edwards’s family members and the other Australian Defence Force members involved in this incident in relation to the release of the report, the Minister for Defence has decided not to publicly release the report into the death of Lance Corporal Edwards. Lance Corporal Edwards’s family and other Australian Defence Force members involved in this incident are aware of this decision.
Lance Corporal Edwards’s family, friends and peers have all been affected by his death in what Defence acknowledges has been a protracted process. Defence deeply regrets the death of Lance Corporal Edwards and action has been taken to reduce the likelihood of a tragedy of this nature happening again.
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