Iraq damages victory for families

Banbury Cake: Judges say families of troops killed in Iraq can ask for damages from the Government Judges say families of troops killed in Iraq can ask for damages from the Government

Relatives of soldiers killed fighting in Iraq can claim for damages for negligence against the Government, senior judges have said.

Lawyers representing troops' families hailed the Court of Appeal ruling in London as a "landmark decision".

Appeal judges said relatives could not make damages claims under human rights legislation, but lawyers said the fight would go on. They said families would take the human rights battle to the Supreme Court.

Sue Smith, 51, of Tamworth, Staffordshire, whose 21-year-old son Private Phillip Hewett was killed seven years ago, said: "It is just so dismissive. It 'doesn't matter'. They are Action Men. If you break them, just bury them. But they are not just Action Men. People need to make a stand."

Relatives had argued that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) failed to provide armoured vehicles or equipment which could have saved lives and should pay compensation. The MoD argued that decisions about battlefield equipment were for politicians and military commanders. Legal action was started as a result of the deaths of a number of British soldiers following the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Corporal Stephen Allbutt, 35, of Sneyd Green, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, was killed in a "friendly fire" incident in March 2003, judges were told. He died after a Challenger 2 tank was hit by another Challenger 2 tank.

Soldiers Dan Twiddy, of Stamford, Lincolnshire, and Andy Julien, of Bolton, Greater Manchester, were badly hurt in the incident. Private Hewett, 21, of Tamworth, 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.

Three appeal judges, Lord Neuberger, who was then the Master of the Rolls, Lord Justice Moses and Lord Justice Rimer heard evidence at a hearing in London in June before announcing their decision. The Court of Appeal analysed claims following challenges to rulings made by High Court judge Mr Justice Owen in June 2011.

Solicitor Shubhaa Srinivasan, a partner with law firm Leigh Day & Co, which is representing some claimants, said the appeal court ruling was a "a landmark decision". Solicitor Jocelyn Cockburn, of law firm Hodge Jones & Allen, also represented some relatives. She said they would now ask the Supreme Court - the highest court in the UK - to decide whether damages claims could also be made under human rights legislation.

An MoD spokesman said later: "Our thoughts and concerns remain with those that were injured and the families of those that sadly lost their lives. We are considering the judgment by the Court of Appeal and as this is likely to be subject to further legal action it would be inappropriate for us to comment further."

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