Relatives of Iraq death soldiers make compensation bid

British soldier in IraqImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Some 179 UK servicemen and women were killed during the conflict in Iraq - with 136 killed in action

Senior judges have been asked to consider whether relatives of soldiers killed in the Iraq war can pursue damages claims against the government.

In written submissions to the Court of Appeal, the relatives say they intend to seek compensation under human rights and negligence legislation.

They argue the MoD failed to provide adequate equipment for troops.

But the MoD says decisions about battlefield equipment are for politicians and military commanders.

The judges' decision could impact potential claims by wounded service personnel, lawyers say.

'Foreseeable risk'

Robert Weir QC, who is acting for some relatives, said: "The state is under a positive obligation to take all reasonable measures to protect the lives of its soldiers."

He said that - even in the context of dangerous activities - this positive obligation required the state to "adopt and implement regulations and systems to mitigate the relevant risk to life - including adequate equipment and training".

Mr Weir said that part of the relatives' argument would centre on the MoD's use of controversial Snatch Land Rovers.

The thin-skinned vehicles are designed to withstand small arms fire, but have been criticised for offering insufficient protection against roadside bombs.

In this case, said Mr Weir, "the [MoD] took a decision not to provide medium armoured vehicles in Iraq, but instead to deploy soldiers using Snatch Land Rovers".

He added that risks to soldiers in Snatch vehicles from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) had been "foreseeable".

He said the MoD "did this in circumstances where it was aware of the inadequacy of those vehicles and the increased risk to life that they involved".

In June 2011, a High Court judge ruled that the families could pursue claims on grounds of negligence.

But at the time, Mr Justice Owen refused their attempts to claim compensation under the Human Rights Act.

Appeals have been lodged against those decisions by lawyers representing both the relatives and the MoD.

Legal action was started by the relatives after the deaths of a number of British soldiers, Mr Justice Owen heard.

Cpl Stephen Allbutt, 35, of Sneyd Green in Stoke-on-Trent, was killed in a so-called friendly fire incident in March 2003, after a Challenger 2 tank was hit by another Challenger 2 tank.

Soldiers Dan Twiddy, of Stamford in Lincolnshire, and Andy Julien, of Bolton, were badly wounded in the incident, the judge was told.

He also heard that Pte Phillip Hewett, 21, of Tamworth in Staffordshire, died in July 2005 after a Snatch Land Rover was blown up.

Similar explosions killed Pte Lee Ellis, 23, of Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester, in February 2006, and Lance Cpl Kirk Redpath, 22, of Romford in Essex, in August 2007 - Mr Justice Owen was told.

The UK lost 179 servicemen and women following the invasion of Iraq in 2003 - of which 136 were killed in action.