Page last updated at 16:24 GMT, Friday, 11 April 2008 17:24 UK

Families hail landmark judgement

Jason Smith
Pte Jason Smith died of heatstroke in Iraq

Military families have reacted with delight to a landmark High Court judgement about the human rights of British soldiers serving overseas.

Mr Justice Collins said sending them on patrol or into battle with defective equipment could be illegal.

The decision was welcomed by the mother of Pte Jason Smith who died of heatstroke in 2003 in southern Iraq and whose death became a test case.

Catherine Smith said other families should not face the same legal battles.

"I hope going through with this inquiry... that it won't happen to any other family because it was traumatising and I really wouldn't wish it on anyone else."

Her solicitor Jocelyn Cockburn said the ruling meant British soldiers sent abroad would "have the same human rights as any other British citizens and must be properly equipped when sent into battle".

How can you expect soldiers to go out and risk everything... and the government to not have any responsibility to ensure their equipment functions correctly
Diane Dernie

She said the judgment also had great significance for the conduct of future inquests into deaths on active service.

Service families with loved ones killed on duty overseas hoped the ruling would help their own battle for justice.

Diane Dernie, the mother of L/Bombadier Ben Parkinson, from Yorkshire, who was injured in an explosion in Afghanistan last year, told the BBC the decision was "absolute common sense".

"How can you expect these soldiers to go out and risk everything and give their all and the government to not have any responsibility to ensure their equipment functions correctly and that they are provided with safety equipment?"

Legal action

Meanwhile, the families of Gordon Gentle and David Clarke, who this week failed in their legal attempt to force a public inquiry into the Iraq war, said Mr Justice Collins' decision was "legally and morally correct".

Rose Gentle
Rose Gentle hopes the ruling will help her fight over the death of her son

Rose Gentle, whose son Fusilier Gordon Gentle died in a roadside bomb blast in Basra in June 2004, said it might aid her fight for damages.

"It means that Gordon's case must be heard in full as he was within the jurisdiction of the UK Government.

"We do not think that the defence of combat immunity can prevent my family getting justice and ultimately damages for Gordon's death."

The father of a paratrooper killed in a gun battle in Afghanistan without night vision goggles also believes the ruling will aid a legal battle with the Ministry of Defence.

Anthony Philippson first threatened to sue the MoD last month, demanding it accept full liability for the death of his son Capt James Philippson in Helmand Province in 2006.

"My lawyer has written saying he will take legal action unless they settle a claim he has made.

"I'm sure he will be picking up on the judgment today," he said.

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