June 24, 2013
A landmark judgement handed down by the Supreme Court on 19th June 2013 has paved the way for families of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan to pursue claims against the Ministry of Defence.
Legal action was brought by relatives of several soldiers tragically killed whilst travelling inside Challenger Tank and Snatch Land Rover military vehicles between 2003 and 2007 in the Iraq conflict.
In its judgement, the Supreme Court ruled that damages claims could be brought in negligence as well as under human rights legislation.
The MoD had argued that as the soldiers had left their British bases, they were not covered by relevant legislation and therefore the specific obligations imposed within Article two of the European Convention on Human Rights
(which imposes a duty on authorities to protect the right to life) were not applicable.
In relation to the allegations of negligence, the MoD's position was that it was not 'fair, just or reasonable' to impose a duty of care when soldiers were on a battlefield.
The court, in rejecting both these assertions held that the soldiers remained within the UK's legal jurisdiction whilst on the battlefield and that the Ministry of Defence did owe a duty of care towards them.
The finding means that claims may be brought where soldiers are deemed to have been sent to war with inadequate or ineffective equipment for instance.
More specifically there have been at least 37 fatalities amongst the armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan related to the use of the lightly armoured Snatch Land Rover earning it an unenviable nickname amongst soldiers of the 'mobile coffin'.
As the lead representative of the Claimants in the case, Shubhaa Srinivasan commented: 'The highest court in the land has now ruled the MoD, as employer, must accept that it owes a duty of care to properly equip service personnel who go to war'.
It is important that they obtain professional legal advice as soon as possible so as to ascertain whether a claim may be pursued, and to ensure that the right to make a claim is not lost through passage of time or other factor.