Monday 18 December 2017

Family to sue UK Ministry of Defence over Red Cap soldier's death in Iraq

Ellen Branagh and Tom Wilkinson

The family of an Army Red Cap killed by an Iraqi mob are suing the Ministry of Defence for negligence.

Corporal Russell Aston, 30, was killed alongside five other Royal Military Police officers when a 400-strong mob descended on a police station in Majar al-Kabir in Iraq in June 2003.


His family have now launched legal action against the MoD for negligence, following a landmark ruling at the Supreme Court last month.


Today it emerged that lawyers for the family of Cpl Aston, who was from Swadlincote, Derbyshire, have launched a legal claim alleging that commanders failed to take reasonable measures to keep him and his fellow military police officers safe.


It claims the MoD was negligent because the Red Caps were not supplied with sufficient ammunition to defend themselves, or roadworthy vehicles or effective communications.


It is expected that families of the other Red Caps who died in the incident will join the legal action, the lawyer for the Aston family said today.


The other five RMP officers were Sergeant Simon Hamilton-Jewell, 41, from Chessington, Surrey; Corporal Paul Long, 24, of South Shields, Tyne and Wear; Lance Corporal Benjamin McGowan Hyde, 23, from Northallerton, North Yorkshire; Lance Corporal Tom Keys, 20, from Bala, North Wales; and Corporal Simon Miller, 21, from Washington, Tyne and Wear.


Solicitor-Advocate Simon McKay, who is acting for the families of Cpl Aston and Cpl Miller, said: "The claims follow a recent Supreme Court ruling extending the reach of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to some theatres of war and the scope of combat immunity as a defence available to the Ministry of Defence."


He said the claim alleges that the Government breached Article 2 of European Convention by failing to take measures that it was expected to in light of the "real and immediate risk to life" of the soldiers.


Mr McKay said the claim includes allegations of a failure to provide sufficient ammunition on June 24 2003; a failure to provide roadworthy vehicles; and a failure to ensure effective communications were provided to the soldiers.


He said it would be open to the MoD to argue that the claims were out of time, but he hoped it would not try to "avoid accountability of a technical basis".


"The justice of the case demands the families get a fair hearing," he added.


The move comes after families of British soldiers killed and injured fighting in Iraq were last month given the go-ahead to bring compensation claims against the Government.


The Supreme Court - the highest court in the UK - ruled that damages claims could be launched under legislation covering negligence and human rights.


At the time, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said he was concerned at the "wider implications" of the judgment, which potentially threw open a range of military decisions to the "uncertainty of litigation".


Asked about the launch of legal action by Cpl Aston's family, an MoD spokesman said today: "Our thoughts remain with the families of those who lost their lives in this incident.


"However, it would be inappropriate to comment on any forthcoming legal proceedings."

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