MoD facing law suits after court rules Iraq families can sue


  By Angela Haggerty
The Supreme Court has ruled that families of soldiers killed in Iraq can sue the government for negligence following legal action launched by relatives of soldiers killed in action.
The fight for the right to sue the government for damages had previously been heard by the High Court and the Court of Appeal as the Ministry of Defence battled to stop a decision opening the doors to families’ legal claims.

The Supreme Court ruled that the soldiers should be considered within the UK’s jurisdiction at the time of their deaths and action could therefore be pursued under the European Convention on Human Rights, contrary to the claim from the MoD that the soldiers were not covered by the legislation once they left their British base.

The families of 21-year-old Pte Phillip Hewett, 23-year-old Pte Lee Ellis and 22-year-old L/Cpl Kirk Redpath have been fighting the MoD since the death of their loved ones, who all died in lightly armoured Snatch Land Rovers while on duty in Iraq.

Pte Hewett’s mother Susan Smith said after the ruling: “The MoD will now have to make sure our soldiers are safe abroad.  What we have done now will make a lot of difference to people in the future.  There will have to be protection in place.

“Phillip is dead.  Nothing is going to bring him back.  But there are other boys out there.  We don’t understand why the MoD didn’t just admit they got it wrong years ago.”

Gordon Brown’s government announced in 2010 that the vehicles were to be phased out of action after being linked to at least 36 British troops’ deaths over the previous decade.

The families are some of a number who have campaigned for British soldiers to be adequately equipped in battle following deaths which they claim could have been prevented if soldiers had been provided with better vehicles and equipment.

Rose Gentle of Pollock, Glasgow, was a prolific campaigner following the death of her 19-year-old son Gordon in Basra in 2004.  Fusilier Gentle had been in Iraq for less than a month when the Snatch Land Rover he was travelling in was hit by a bomb, fatally injuring him.

Rose Gentle became an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq following her son’s death and travelled to London later that year to stage a protest outside Downing Street.

She then stood for election against the armed forces minister, Adam Ingram, in the 2005 general election, after accusing the MoD of covering up the circumstances of Gordon’s death.  She consistently called for a public inquiry into the decision to go to war in Iraq.