In a landmark ruling today, the judges in the of Smith and Others v The Ministry of Defence passed that the families of soldiers killed in Iraq can sue the government for negligence under human rights legislation.
The decision comes in the wake of a length battle that saw the case go to trial in February. You can see the full ruling here.
Susan Smith, the mother of Pte Phillip Hewett, 21, who was killed along with Pte Lee Ellis, 23, and L/Cpl Kirk Redpath, 22, when a roadside bomb destroyed their Snatch Land Rover, described the judgement as ‘absolutely brilliant’, and that the government ‘can no longer treat soldiers as sub-human with no right.’
The result was not wanted by the MoD, who fear the ruling could make it more difficult for troops to carry out operations, according to Defence Secretary Philip Hammond. Hammond went on to say that the case, ‘potentially throws open a wide range of military decisions to the uncertainty of litigation’, and that there exists a ‘combat immunity’ where it was not ‘fair, just or reasonable’ to place a duty of care on the MoD to soldiers in combat operations, as was considered in the case of Cpl Stephen Allbutt, 35, who was killed in a ‘friendly fire incident in Iraq in 2003. However, the Supreme Court ruled that this did not apply in this instance.
Since the start of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan at least 37 soldiers have died as a result of attacks on the lightly armoured Snatch Land Rover. First introduced in 1992, the Snatch has been the subject of repeated criticism at the hands of the media, citing its unsuitability in combat zones. The high number of deaths occurring within the supposed safety of the Snatch Land Rover in Iraq and Afghanistan has lead troops to nickname it the ‘mobile coffin’, and there have been strong calls for it to be withdrawn from service entirely.
The ruling has been described by the BBC as a ‘major shift’ which could mean more claims will be brought against the MoD. At Blackwater Law we are dedicated to helping those with a variety of military injury compensation claims, specialising in post traumatic stress disorder claims. We welcome the ruling as we believe no one who puts their life on the line for their country should have to suffer in silence, and we are here to help you achieve the justice and compensation you deserve.