Snatch families await judgment
Press Release: Wednesday 11th May 2011
MoD 3-day hearing at High Court finished today
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has asked a High Court hearing to
block claims for compensation made by the families of three
soldiers who died in Iraq.
Private Lee Ellis, Lance Corporal Kirk Redpath, and Private Phillip
Hewett were all killed in separate incidents during the conflict
whilst travelling in controversial Snatch Land Rovers.
Relatives - backed by HJA solicitor Jocelyn
Cockburn - insist that the MoD failed to provide
properly-armoured vehicles that could have saved lives and are
suing the organisation for compensation.
However, the MoD stated this week that the claims should be blocked
on the basis of combat immunity and because there is no duty under
the Human Rights Act to protect the lives of soldiers in
combat. Its representatives have also argued that
"complex" decisions about the deployment of equipment should be
made by politicians and army personnel, not judges.
Ms Cockburn commented: "It is outrageous that the MoD seeks to
assert that there is no duty on it to protect its soldiers.
Everybody in the UK has the right to life. This right is
provided to us all because we are human and does not discriminate
against anyone – even people that actually pose a threat to our
society. So why is it acceptable to deny soldiers their
fundamental human rights?
“The Snatch families are arguing that the
decision to provide poorly equipped vehicles was not one made in
the heat of battle. Over a number of years, including before
the Iraq War, the need for better armoured vehicles was evident –
in fact there was enormous public outcry about the use of Snatch
(which were described as “mobile coffins” by some soldiers) and yet
the MoD did nothing until 2006 which was far too late. This
is not a case therefore that is covered by combat immunity, which
is designed to prevent claims arising out of decisions made in the
fog of war."
“As to the complexity issue and the fact that
the Courts should not interfere with matters of policy, there is
nothing extraordinary about the Courts being asked to adjudicate in
difficult cases. The MoD is trying to prevent these claims
being aired. Without a legal obligation to protect soldiers
one must be concerned that this will simply not be a priority for
politicians. There is a wealth of evidence to show that
standards are raised by the existence of such duties. One is
left to consider whether soldiers would have been sent out in
Snatch land rovers had the MoD felt that it was under a duty to
protect its soldiers”.
She added that the MoD has continued to deny
that Snatch Land Rovers were unsafe and that this has caused the
Snatch families considerable upset.
The Judge has reserved Judgment and this is expected within the
next month or two.