In July 2005, Pte Phillip Hewett, was killed by a roadside bomb while travelling in a lightly armoured “snatch” Land Rover in Iraq.
He was the ninth of 37 service personnel to be killed in the vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan, which came to be known as “mobile coffins”.
Twelve years later, following a legal battle that reached the Supreme Court, his mother Sue has finally received her apology.
It has resulted in a settlement of her case and an apology from Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon for failures that “could have saved lives”.
Speaking this morning, Hilary Meredith, CEO of Hilary Meredith Solicitors and Visiting Professor of Law and Veterans’ Affairs at the University of Chester, accused the Defence Secretary of “plotting to ride roughshod over the courts and our troops”, despite his apology.
“While this long overdue apology will bring comfort to the family, at the same time Michael Fallon is plotting to make the MoD totally unaccountable in the future.
“Under current proposals, combat immunity – which provides an exemption from legal liability for the Ministry of Defence – would apply to all claims brought by those in combat, even procurement decisions made back at Whitehall, where equipment provided to our troops subsequently turns out to be faulty or unsuitable.
“The men and women on the frontline in Iraq knew for two years that the Snatch Land Rovers were unsuitable – and yet the MoD did nothing. The MoD didn’t fight this case because they believed the Snatch Land Rover was the correct vehicle – they fought it because they wanted the courts to rule that they didn’t owe our servicemen and women a duty of care.
“With the courts holding firm and ruling against the MoD, Fallon is now attempting to bypass them all together by scrapping the MoD’s duty of care through legislation.
“Both legally and morally, the MoD should not be allowed to legislate its way out of the duty of care it owes to our armed forces. If the MoD, as an employer, can legislate its way out of a duty of care to our armed forces where does this stop? Will other employers be next? The Fire Service? The Police Force? Where will it end?
“Combat immunity, which is currently interpreted by the courts, is there to protect military operations when thinking is impaired in the heat of the battle. It does not – and should not – apply to procurement decisions made back at Whitehall, where equipment procured for our troops, subsequently turns out to be faulty or unsuitable.”
“Michael Fallon is apologising with one hand but plotting to ride roughshod over our courts and our troops with the other.”