Ruling due on soldier death inquiry
The High Court rules today on whether a mother of a British soldier killed by an armed mob in Iraq while on active service is legally entitled to a new independent inquiry into his death.
Corporal Paul Long, 24, and the other RMP officers had been sent to a police station in Majar-al-Kabir in south-east Iraq to meet local police they had been tasked to develop when the station was surrounded and attacked.
At a recent hearing, his mother Patricia Long stared at a photograph of her smiling son she was holding in her lap while judges in London were told how he died on June 24, 2003 with five Royal Military Police colleagues.
Michael Fordham QC, for Mrs Long, who is from Hebburn, Tyne and Wear, argued all the formal inquiries so far, including an inquest, had failed to get to the bottom of how mistakes that led to the deaths were made, and who was responsible for them.
The six Red Caps had been sent to the police station without an Iridium phone, which might have enabled them to call for help, said Mr Fordham.
This was despite a clear order that all patrols should be equipped with the phone.
Instead they had a Clansman radio, which witnesses told the inquest into Cpl Long's death was "almost useless" in Iraq conditions. They also had insufficient ammunition to defend themselves.
Mr Fordham asked Lord Justice Fulford and Mr Justice Leggatt to declare that Defence Secretary Philip Hammond was failing to comply with his investigative duty under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights to conduct "an effective independent investigation" into Cpl Long's death to learn from any mistakes made.
Ministry of Defence lawyers argued the claim should be dismissed because the circumstances of the RMP deaths did not trigger an investigative duty under Article 2 and there was no legal obligation to hold a further inquiry.
They say if there was any obligation under Article 2, that was satisfied by inquiries and internal Army investigations, including a board of inquiry, that have already taken place, as well as a coroner's inquest.
The MoD also argues there has been "undue delay" in launching the challenge, and to grant a fresh inquiry now would be detrimental to good administration.
Mrs Long's legal team say the board of inquiry was specifically directed "not to attribute blame", and the 2006 inquest lacked a remit to provide Cpl Long's family with answers and accountability.
Mr Fordham told the court: "The real issue is who decided what and why - why mistakes were made, where the responsibility for the mistakes lay, who was responsible or in charge of making sure these things did not go wrong?
"That has been the constant theme in this case. Ultimately the question is whether Mrs Long is entitled in law to a further investigation into these events and circumstances."
As Mrs Long, 62, sat in front of him, Mr Fordham said it would be "too distressing" to read out in open court the details of his death and directed the judges to specific pages in the evidence before the court.
He said on the day Cpl Long was killed a group of 1 Parachute Regiment soldiers were only 150 metres away with a truck as a crowd of armed and angry Iraqis surrounded the police station - "but they did not know that RMP soldiers were in that police station".
"On the basis of material evidence an Iridium phone could have saved their lives."
Days earlier an angry crowd had surrounded the same police station but British soldiers then inside had used an Iridium phone, "the only realistic option for communication", to make contact from the roof of the building, said Mr Fordham.