4 Mar 2013

Defence Force says soldier's death not preventable

12:24 pm on 4 March 2013

The head of the Defence Force says nothing could have been done to prevent the death of a soldier who took his own life in Afghanistan.

Corporal Douglas Hughes, 26, served at Forward Patrol Base Romero in north-eastern Bamiyan province and died in April 2012.

Labour Party defence spokesperson Phil Goff is seeking an open inquiry into the death, citing concerns about the adequacy of training for the soldier's unit before going to Afghanistan.

Mr Goff said the unit received three weeks of pre-deployment training instead of the normal five weeks because it was involved in security for the Rugby World Cup.

He told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme the unit was also in Afghanistan for two months longer than usual. "The safety and the preparedness of our people being deployed into a war zone is more important, frankly, than their involvement in the Rugby World Cup," he said.

A coroner has ruled there is no need for him to carry out an inquiry into the death, saying a Court of Inquiry had already been carried out by the Defence Force. Details about the findings of the Court of Inquiry have been suppressed by the coroner.

Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Rhys Jones says he was satisfied with the result in that the death of Corporal Douglas Hughes was not preventable.