Troops' Rights Upheld

A High Court judge has ruled that sending British soldiers on patrol or into battle with defective equipment could breach their human rights.

The shock finding has been made in a test case over Scottish soldier Pte Jason Smith's death in Iraq.

Mr Justice Collins said human rights laws could apply to troops serving abroad and he also ruled the families of those killed in conflict should get legal aid and access to military documents.

However, the Government is appealing against the court's decision on human rights.

The rulings came during a request for military inquest guidelines in a case relating to Pte Smith, 32, from Hawick, in the Scottish Borders, who died of heatstroke in Iraq in 2003.

Lawyers for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had argued that it was "impossible" to give soldiers on active service "the benefits of the Human Rights Act".

But the High Court ruled service personnel were entitled to some legal protection "wherever they may be".

The decision was a legal defeat for Defence Secretary Des Browne, who also had his bid to ban coroners from using phrases such as "serious failure" in verdicts rejected.

Jocelyn Cockburn, the solicitor for Pte Smith's family, said the court's decision would be of great significance to the relatives of those serving in the armed forces.

Ms Cockburn added that the "parameters" had now been set out for coroners by the judge, with the practice of deleting of names from military documents now being "called into question".


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