High Court judges reject bid for new soldier death probe

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A mother whose son was killed by an armed mob in Iraq has lost a High Court bid for a new independent inquiry into his death.

Corporal Paul Long, 24, and other Royal Military Police (RMP) officers including Lance Corporal Ben Hyde, 23, from Northallerton, were sent to a police station in Majar-al-Kabir in south east Iraq to meet local police twhen the station was surrounded and attacked.

At a recent High Court hearing, his mother Patricia Long stared at a photograph of her smiling son she was holding in her lap while judges in London were told he died on June 24, 2003, with five Royal Military Police colleagues.

In denying her bid yesterday, High Court judges said all they could decide was whether Mrs Long was owed a “right in law” to have another investigation.

They said: “We find she does not have such a right. We have held that the right of a soldier under Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights to have his life protected by law does not include a right to be safeguarded from human error, including negligent error, in the conduct of military operations which result in the risk of death on active service being greater than it would otherwise have been.”

Michael Fordham QC, for Mrs Long, from Hebburn, Tyne and Wear, had argued that all the formal inquiries so far, including an inquest, failed to get to the bottom of how mistakes that led to the deaths were made, and who was responsible for them.

The six Red Caps had been sent to the police station without an Iridium phone, which might have enabled them to call for help, said Mr Fordham.

This was despite a clear order that all patrols should be equipped with the phone.

Lord Justice Fulford and Mr Justice Leggatt, having found there was “no arguable breach of duty” by the state requiring a further investigation, went on to rule that the investigations already carried out had discharged any investigatory duty which the state had under Article 2.

They highlighted in particular the inquest held in 2006. The judges also ruled that Mrs Long’s claim must fail “because it has been brought so many years out of time”.

After the hearing, Mrs Long said she was “bitterly disappointed” but planned to appeal.

Last year, L/Cpl Hyde’s father John said he had many unanswered questions about the circumstances of his son’s death and a public inquiry would allow the issues to be raised.