HC Deb 21 October 1987 vol 120 cc742-3W
Miss Nicholson

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he is now in a position to make a further statement about the accident to Master James Gibbs on Okehampton range on 22 April.

Mr. Freeman

Following the Army's inquiry into the incident which occurred on Okehampton range on 22 April, I am now able to add to the answer I gave the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) on 1 May, at columns 299–300.

James Gibbs was injured by an explosion when he and five other boys aged 18 or under, supervised by a local resident, were walking on the Okehampton ranges.

On the basis of statements received and the evidence examined by an explosive ordnance expert it seems most likely that a blind round (that is ammunition which failed to function correctly after ignition) detonated when James Gibbs struck it with another piece of metal. I regret that at some time an individual conducting a practice must have contravened the regulations which require all blinds to be recorded and destroyed. It cannot be established precisely how long ago the round which caused James Gibbs injuries was fired.

The Okehampton range byelaws prohibit the taking of any projectile or other metal found within the danger area. Prominent notices advise visitors not to touch any metal objects. James Gibbs and his party had to pass one of these notices to gain access to the range. It seems that the adult in charge of the party was aware that the children were collecting metal from the range but made no attempt to stop them. James Gibbs himself was aged nearly 13 at the time of the accident and although he could not be expected to identify objects on the range he should have exercised caution and understood the dangers of his actions. This unfortunate incident, therefore, serves to underline the importance of observing range byelaws, warning flags and notices which are intended for public protection.

In order to do all we can to prevent this from happening again, the range on which the accident occurred was temporarily closed and fully searched for blinds; it has now been reopened. In addition, warning notices on the perimeter of Dartmoor ranges will be reviewed to ensure that there are enough of them. The wording of all notices will be changed so that a more forceful message is conveyed.

Back to