The Court of Appeal have today ruled that the Ministry of Defence have a duty to ensure safe and adequate equipment is provided to serving soldiers and a failure to do so means the MoD can be found liable if soldiers are injured or killed.

The decision came in a case brought by the families of soldiers killed on active service in Iraq. Corporal Allbutt was killed in a friendly fire incident when inside a tank in 2003 and another three soldiers, Privates Ellis and Hewitt and Lance Corporal Redpath, were killed when their snatch Land Rover they were travelling in came into contact with an improvised explosive device.

Corporal Allbutt’s family argued that had tanks been fitted with suitable equipment and devices the likelihood is that the friendly fire incident in which he died would have been prevented. The argument presented to the court by the families of Privates Ellis and Hewitt and Lance Corporal Redpath was that had the Land Rovers been sufficiently constructed so as to minimise the impact from an improvised explosive device (a known danger in war zones), then the likelihood is that their deaths would also have been avoided.

Combat immunity

The MoD’s defence of ‘combat immunity’ – that it does not owe service personnel a civil duty of care in such circumstances and that negligence claims relating to the decisions of politicians about the procurement of equipment should not be allowed - failed.

The Court of Appeal found in favour of the families of all the deceased soldiers saying that there was a duty on the MoD to get right decisions that are usually made months and years before combat situations.

Andrew McDonald, Head of Thompsons Solicitors’ Military Claims Unit, said: “Today’s judgment is a historic victory for soldiers’ rights. For too long soldiers' compensation claims for the horrific injuries too often caused by defective, outdated and unsafe equipment have been rejected whilst the MoD hid behind a blanket defence of ‘combat immunity’”.

“The decisions taken in the comfort of Whitehall have a huge impact on the support and protection for our brave soldiers fighting for peace and justice on the front line and the MoD, and politicians, need to take this judgment very seriously”.