Relatives win Iraq damages case

Relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq secured a victory in the latest round of a compensation fight today when the Court of Appeal said they could pursue damages claims against the Government.

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Mother vows to fight on in Iraq compensation battle

Relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq have secured a victory in the latest round of a compensation fight after the Court of Appeal said they could pursue damages claims against the Government.

Sue Smith, the mother of Private Phillip Hewett, who was killed in Iraq seven years ago at the age of 21, vowed to continue her fight against the Ministry of Defence.

She told ITV News' Daisy McAndrew: "I'm not going to let anyone beat me, Phillip wouldn't".

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MP: Ruling will have 'very big effect' on Defence Ministry

James Arbuthnot, the chairman of the House of Commons Defence Committee, said that today's ruling will have a "very big effect" on the Ministry of Defence (MoD). He told BBC Radio 4's The World At One:

It's not just that the MoD is now going to owe a duty of care in relation to all the equipment procurement decisions it makes, but also in relation to everything that an officer or a soldier does actually in the course of battle.There will be a duty of care, for which they will have to be trained.

I think the MoD had rather relied until now on the idea that if you decide to be a soldier, then you take with that decision the risks that naturally come with it - you put yourself in harm's way with your eyes open.

That argument is really going to be much reduced in strength now ...

– James Arbuthnot MP

MoD: Our thoughts remain with families of the dead

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said of today's ruling:

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.

– Ministry of Defence spokesman

Relatives' lawyer vows to take human rights claim to Supreme Court

Jocelyn Cockburn, who represents some of the relatives, said she will fight for her clients' right to make claims on the basis of human rights in the Supreme Court.

Three judges today upheld their right to make claims on the basis of negligence, but they agreed with an earlier decision that human rights legislation could not be used. Ms Cockburn said:

The battle will go forward on human rights.

I think it is very important to establish a principle that soldiers going into battle have human rights ...

All the MoD must do is to take reasonable steps to protect the rights of its soldiers.

– Jocelyn Cockburn, solicitor

Soldier's widow: Today is a landmark victory

The widow of a soldier from Stoke-on-Trent who was killed in Iraq has vowed to fight on for her husband and other troops after today's ruling.

Debi Allbutt, whose husband Corporal Stephen Allbutt died in March 2003, said the legal action is "our only route to find out what really happened and to get justice".

When I set out to achieve what I've achieved today I set out a promise that I'd get justice and I'd stop this from happening again, and obviously today is a landmark victory ...

I suppose I've fought so long and I keep thinking that maybe I won't keep winning because my luck will run out somehow, but it's something I really believe in so I'll just keep fighting, and fighting, and fighting."

– Debi Allbutt

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Victory for relatives of Private Lee Ellis

Private Lee Ellis, 23, of Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester

Relatives of Private Lee Ellis are among those seeking compensation from the Ministry of Defence for allegedly not providing adequate equipment or training.

Private Ellis died in February 2006 when his Snatch Land Rover was blown up.

Similar explosions claimed the lives of two other soldiers whose families are making claims.

Relatives' lawyer: The Defence Ministry has a duty of care

Jocelyn Cockburn, a lawyer representing relatives of soldiers who died in Iraq, has said today's ruling is significant because it establishes that "the Ministry of Defence has a duty of care towards its soldiers ... and that duty of care extends to ... decisions about equipment."

She also told BBC News that some of the relatives plan to appeal the ruling that they may not pursue claims using the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mother attacks 'despicable' attitude of Defence Ministry

The mother of a soldier who was killed in Iraq has described the attitude of the Ministry of Defence as "despicable".

Standing outside the Royal Courts of Justice, Sue Smith of Tamworth in Staffordshire said: "It is just so dismissive. It 'doesn't matter'. They are Action Men. If you break them, just bury them."

Sue Smith outside the Royal Courts of Justice Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Mrs Smith's son, Private Phillip Hewett, was killed in Iraq seven years ago at the age of 21.

Lawyer Jocelyn Cockburn (L) and Sue Smith speak to media outside the Royal Courts of Justice Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Soldier's widow tearful after compensation finding

Debi Allbutt, widow of Corporal Stephen Allbutt who was killed in a "friendly fire" incident in Iraq, burst into tears when she heard about today's ruling.

She was watching the news on a big screen at Swan Bank Methodist Mission in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, with local Labour MP Joan Walley.

Ms Walley, also fighting back tears, stood up and said: "I just want to stand up and congratulate Debi for everything that you've done."

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