Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Family delight at Iraq court ruling

Families of soldiers killed fighting in Iraq are bringing their battle for damage claims to the Supreme Court

Families of British soldiers killed and injured fighting in Iraq have been given the go-ahead to bring compensation claims against the Government.

The Supreme Court - the highest court in the UK - ruled that damages claims could be launched under legislation covering negligence and human rights.

Lawyers representing relatives said the ruling meant the Ministry of Defence owed a duty of care to properly equip servicemen and women who went to war.

But Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said he was concerned about the implications, and warned that the ruling could "make it more difficult" for troops to carry out operations.

A group of families started legal action as a result of the deaths of a number of soldiers.

Corporal Stephen Allbutt, 35, of Sneyd Green, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, was killed in a ''friendly fire'' incident in March 2003. He died after a Challenger 2 tank was hit by another Challenger 2 tank. Trooper David Clarke, 19, of Littleworth, Staffordshire, also died during the incident. Soldiers Dan Twiddy, of Stamford, Lincolnshire, and Andy Julien, of Bolton, Greater Manchester, were badly hurt in the incident.

Private Phillip Hewett, 21, of Tamworth, Staffordshire, died in July 2005 after a Snatch Land Rover was blown up. Similar explosions claimed the lives of Private Lee Ellis, 23, of Wythenshawe, Manchester, in February 2006, and Lance Corporal Kirk Redpath, 22, of Romford, Essex, in August 2007.

Pte Hewett's mother, Sue Smith, 51, of Tamworth, Staffordshire, said: "They can no longer treat soldiers as sub-human with no rights. It's been a long fight but it's absolutely brilliant. Now serving soldiers have got human rights."

The High Court and the Court of Appeal had earlier analysed issues. In June 2011 a High Court judge in London said relatives could bring negligence claims but not claims under human rights legislation. In October 2012 appeal judges came to the same conclusions.

Relatives had told judges that the MoD failed to provide armoured vehicles or equipment which could have saved lives. The MoD said decisions about battlefield equipment were for politicians and military commanders.

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