Former Stamford soldier wins right to sue Ministry of Defence for negligence
A Stamford ex-soldier injured in Iraq has won the right to sue the Ministry of Defence for negligence after taking his fight to the Court of Appeal.
Daniel Twiddy, 32, of Pauleys Court, brought the claim after suffering severe facial injuries when his Challenger tank was the target of friendly-fire during an assault in Basra, in March 2003.
Mr Twiddy was a lance corporal in the Tank Regiment of the Queen's Royal Lancers at the time and was discharged from the Army on medical grounds in 2005.
The wife of Corporal Stephen Albutt, of Stoke-on-Trent, who was killed in the incident and ex-Trooper Andy Julien, of Bolton, who was severely injured, also brought the case.
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They argued the tank was not equipped with available technology which would have protected the soldiers from the risk of friendly fire and that the men, and fellow personnel, had not been provided with the adequate vehicle recognition training prior to military operations in Iraq.
The MoD had attempted to stop the soldiers' claims from progressing, first making a strike out application, which failed, and then appealing against the decision.
It argued that it should be released from any duty of care for failing to adequately equip soldiers because the deaths and injuries occurred on the battlefield, in a combat situation, and that decisions about equipment are for politicians and military commanders.
In his judgment handed down on Friday, Lord Neuberger described the MoD's arguments to strike out the claims as 'fatally flawed' and agreed with the original court ruling that they should continue.
He said: "The duty of care owed by the MoD, as employer, to the members of the armed forces, as employees, does exist and has been recognised, without demur, by the courts.
"It includes a duty to provide safe systems of work and safe equipment.
"The fact that policy considerations and the scarcity of resources will arise in relation to allegations of negligence...provides no basis for distinguishing the MoD from any other public body in relation to the duty it owes to its employees."
Speaking to stamfordpeople after the judgement Mr Twiddy said: "This is brilliant news, it's been a long time coming and we really feel like we are getting somewhere now.
"What happens next is down to the MoD - whether they settle the compensation out of court or we have to go to civil court.
"But for me it's never been about the money.
"Don't get me wrong it will be useful, but it's been nine years since the incident and I am happy with my life.
"What is more important is that we are fighting for our rights and to ensure that circumstances are changed for soldiers going forward - so that friendly-fire incidents don't happen again."
Shubhaa Srinivasan a partner with law firm Leigh Day & Co who is representing Mr Twiddy, Mr Julien and the family of Corporal Allbutt, described the judgement as 'a landmark decision'.
"The Appellate Court has categorically rejected the argument that the MoD can release itself from owing a duty of care to soldiers who suffered deaths and injuries in the battlefield due to alleged inadequate or poor equipment.
"The court ruling also makes it clear the MoD can no longer hide behind arguments relating to complexities in procuring equipment and allocation of scarce resources to evade a duty of care to adequately equip its servicemen and women who are being asked to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
"Stephen Allbutt, Daniel and Andy, like so many soldiers, paid a heavy price for their sacrifice and they strongly feel they should be able to ask a British court to consider whether the MoD breached its duty of care to them.
"The Court of Appeal judges unanimously agreed with them."
Leigh Day & Co said the MoD has confirmed it will not appeal the Court of Appeal decision.
Also involved in the claim were the relatives of three personnel killed by improvised explosive devices Private Lee Ellis, Private Phillip Hewett and Lance Corporal Kirk Redpath.
The Court of Appeal upheld the High Court decision that there are no grounds to sue because of a breach of human rights.