AP News

UK court: Dead soldiers' families can sue gov't


LONDON (AP) — The families of several British soldiers who were killed in Iraq can sue their government for negligence, a court ruled Friday.

The families accuse the British government of failing to provide armored vehicles or equipment that could have saved their loved ones' lives.

The High Court backed the families last year, but the Ministry of Defense appealed.

On Friday the Court of Appeal agreed with the previous ruling that the families can sue the government for damages on negligence grounds.

Three appeals judges said that while the principle of combat immunity prevented negligence claims, "if those claims challenge decisions made on the field of battle" it is up to the courts to decide whether decisions about equipment and training fell into that category.

"The claimants may, accordingly, continue to pursue their claims brought in negligence," the judges said.

The Ministry of Defense said it was considering the ruling.

The cases are brought by relatives of Cpl. Stephen Allbutt, who died in a "friendly fire" incident involving two Challenger tanks in March 2003, and of several soldiers killed in their lightly armored Land Rovers hit by roadside bombs.

Stephen Allbutt's widow, Debi Allbutt, called the ruling a landmark, and said she planned to "keep fighting."

"All our soldiers go into war knowing the risk that they undertake and that's why they join," she said. "But what they don't go into war expecting is that they don't have the adequate equipment and they don't receive the right training, and obviously that is why I'm going forward with the case."

Some 179 British personnel died in Iraq between the 2003 U.S-led invasion and British withdrawal in 2009.


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