South Scotland

Hawick soldier Jason Smith's mother seeks answers at inquest

Jason Smith
Image caption A fresh inquest into the death of Pte Jason Smith will take place next week

The mother of a Territorial Army soldier who died of heatstroke in Iraq hopes a fresh inquest will provide answers not given at a first inquiry.

Pte Jason Smith, 32, from Hawick, died on 13 August 2003 after collapsing.

In 2006, an inquest by Oxfordshire's deputy assistant coroner Andrew Walker concluded he would not have died if the British Army had followed procedures.

His mother Catherine Smith pressed for a fresh inquiry which will get under way next week.

The Supreme Court ruled that another inquest into the death should be held.

It will begin on Monday at Oxford Coroners Court and is expected to last up to six days.

Ahead of the inquest, Mrs Smith said: "Jason knew he could die on active service and I accept this.

"But I found out at the original inquest that simple steps could have been taken, like providing air conditioning units which were available 12km away, weren't taken and this put his life at risk unnecessarily.

"Every day the soldiers were asking for air conditioning but they were ignored."

'Serious failure'

She said she hoped the new inquest could provide her with the answers she did not get at the first inquiry and also ensure "similar tragedies" could be avoided in future.

Pte Smith died while serving with the Territorial Army in Al Amarrah.

The inquest later ruled that his death was caused by a "serious failure" in not recognising the difficulty he was having adjusting to the climate.

It prompted his family to begin a test case which led to a High Court ruling in 2008 that human rights laws could be applied to British troops in combat.

The UK government decided to appeal against that decision but that, in turn, was rejected by the Court of Appeal.

However, a final appeal to the Supreme Court proved successful.

In 2010, it ruled that British troops were not protected by human rights laws on the battlefield.

It also ruled that a fresh inquest, fully compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights, should be held.

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