Iraq negligence claim ruling hailed
Lawyers have hailed a High Court judge's ruling that relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq could pursue claims for negligence against the Government as a "landmark" and "real victory" for British troops.
They said Mr Justice Owen's decision, which came after a High Court hearing in London, sent a "clear message" to the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Solicitors said four damages claims - two by relatives of soldiers killed and two by wounded soldiers - will progress in the wake of the ruling, but the MoD said it aims to appeal.
Relatives had argued that the MoD failed to provide armoured vehicles or equipment which could have saved lives and should pay compensation. MoD bosses said decisions about battlefield equipment were for politicians and military commanders.
"Mr Justice Owen's landmark judgment has shown that the Ministry of Defence's argument that there is no duty to protect soldiers deployed on active service is manifestly wrong," said a spokesman for Hodge Jones & Allen, a law firm representing some of the relatives. A spokesman for Leigh, Day & Co, which is representing other families, said: "It is a real victory for... all service personnel."
The judge blocked separate attempts to seek compensation from the Government under human rights legislation - although relatives said they will appeal against that ruling.
Mr Justice Owen heard that compensation claims had been made following an incident in which a British Challenger tank opened fire on another British Challenger tank after an officer became "disorientated" and incidents in which soldiers died after Snatch Land Rovers hit improvised bombs.
Corporal Stephen Allbutt, 35, of Sneyd Green, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, was killed by "friendly fire" in March 2003 after his Challenger 2 tank was hit by another Challenger 2 tank. Two other 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, Greater Manchester, in February 2006, and Lance Corporal Kirk Redpath, 22, of Romford, Essex, in August 2007.
Lawyers said the ruling on negligence meant that a claim brought on behalf of Pte Ellis's 10-year-old daughter Courtney plus claims by Cpl Allbutt's widow, Debi, and Mr Twiddy and Mr Julien could continue.