Families of British soldiers killed and injured fighting in Iraq have been given the go-ahead to bring compensation claims against the Government, after a group of families, including one from Manchester, started legal action.
The Supreme Court – the highest court in the UK – ruled that damages claims could be launched under legislation covering negligence and human rights.
Lawyers representing relatives said the ruling meant that the Ministry of Defence owed a duty of care to properly equip servicemen and women who went to war.
And one woman whose son was killed said the decision – after a hearing in London – was “absolutely brilliant”.
But Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said he was concerned about the implications and warned that the ruling could “make it more difficult” for troops to carry out operations.
A group of families started legal action as a result of the deaths of a number of soldiers.
Cpl Stephen Allbutt, 35, of Sneyd Green, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, was killed in a ‘’friendly fire’’ incident in March 2003.
He died after a Challenger 2 tank was hit by another Challenger 2 tank. Trooper David Clarke, 19, of Littleworth, Staffordshire, also died during the incident.
Soldiers Dan Twiddy, of Stamford, Lincolnshire, and Andy Julien, of Bolton, Greater Manchester, were badly hurt in the incident.
Private Phillip Hewett, 21, of Tamworth, Staffordshire, died in July 2005 after a Snatch Land Rover was blown up.
Similar explosions claimed the lives of Pte Lee Ellis, 23, of Wythenshawe, Manchester, in February 2006, and L/Cpl Kirk Redpath, 22, of Romford, Essex, in August 2007.
Pte Hewett’s mother, Sue Smith, 51, of Tamworth, Staffordshire,said: “They can no longer treat soldiers as sub-human with no rights.
“It’s been a long fight but it’s absolutely brilliant. Now serving soldiers have got human rights.”
But Mr Hammond said: “I am very concerned at the wider implications of this judgment, which could ultimately make it more difficult for our troops to carry out operations and potentially throws open a wide range of military decisions to the uncertainty of litigation.
“We will continue to make this point in future legal proceedings as it can’t be right that troops on operations have to put the European Convention on Human Rights ahead of what is operationally vital to protect our national security.”
Relatives said they would prepare to launch damages claims in the High Court in the wake of the Supreme Court decision. Lawyers said decisions on whether a duty of care had been breached and compensation was justified would be matters for trial judges considering individual cases.