ADF fined $1 million over soldier’s live-fire exercise death

The Department of Defence has been fined one million dollars over the death of Private Jason Challis in the Northern Territory in 2017.

The 25-year-old was killed during a live-fire training exercise at Mount Bundey, where he sustained a fatal gunshot wound to the head.

In Darwin Local Court today, Judge Armitage said there was a 65 second window of opportunity for someone to realise Private Challis had become separated from the group.

READ MORE: Defence Department pleads guilty to soldier death

Private Jason Challis was killed in a live-fire drill.

However, the exercise recommenced while he was standing directly behind a dummy enemy target.

The Department of Defence pleaded guilty to failing to comply with a health and safety duty.

"Inexplicably and tragically, no one noticed that Private Challis was missing," Judge Armitage said in her sentencing remarks.

"The risk was the highest there is, a risk of death.

"That risk was not only foreseeable it was foreseen."

She found there had been "systemic failings" – including a failure to clearly mark dangerous spaces and carry out appropriate walk-throughs or dry runs beforehand.

A specific risk assessment or training needs analysis were also not completed, and any safety briefings were inadequate.

READ MORE: Video shows young soldier's final moments before he was shot

Bodycam footage from the live fire training exercise Private Challis was killed in.

"The policies that were said to be in place did not operate effectively because there was no mechanism to ensure that they were complied with before live firing commenced," Judge Armitage ruled.

In sentencing, her Honour considered the maximum penalty of $1.5 million was the appropriate starting point. But this was discounted this by 33 percent to account for the department's guilty plea, cooperation, as well as reparation payments to the family.

This brought the final figure to $1 million.

In a statement, Jason Challis' family said they were glad the legal case was over.

"We hope what happened to Jason never happens to another family again."

READ MORE: Parents of soldier killed in training don't want him blamed for his death

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