Page last updated at 10:00 GMT, Thursday, 3 December 2009

Gordon Brown criticised over late sympathy letter

Gordon Brown's letter of condolence to Ian Sadler

The father of a soldier killed in Afghanistan in 2007 has criticised the government for sending him a condolence letter two years late.

Ian Sadler, of Exmouth, Devon, said he had been told an administrative error was the reason for the delay.

No 10 said the prime minister had ordered an internal review to ensure the "mistake" would never happen again.

The BBC has since learned there are other families who have not received a condolence letter.

A Downing Street source said there were a couple of cases in which no letter had been sent.

Last month, Gordon Brown was criticised by a bereaved parent for misspelling her son's name in a condolence letter.

Ian Sadler: "I thought it was a bit late, it's the second anniversary tomorrow"

In the letter to Mr Sadler, a member of Mr Brown's staff apologised for the "distress" the error had caused.

His son, Trooper Jack Sadler, of the Territorial Army, was killed on 4 December 2007 when his vehicle hit a landmine during a reconnaissance patrol checking routes for an impending operation in Helmand Province.

Mr Sadler told BBC Radio 4's The Report he had received a handwritten letter from Mr Brown on 17 November 2009, along with a typed apology from an aide to the PM.

Apology from aide

"Jack was killed on 4 December 2007 and I received a letter of condolence from the prime minister with no date on it on 17 November 2009," he told The Report.

"I have a letter apologising, not from the prime minister, but from Jeremy Heywood who is his permanent secretary, apologising that an administrative mistake resulted in my not receiving a letter from the prime minister.

Gordon Brown: "I want to send my heartfelt condolences"

"It's not good is it? Nearly two years later and the PM hasn't apologised, just his aide."

Mr Sadler added: "It goes to show what this present administration thinks of our soldiers."

In his letter, Mr Heywood said: "This issue has only just been brought to the prime minister's and my own attention; and the prime minister wanted to write to you at the earliest opportunity to correct the mistake that was made."

He added: "Please accept my and the prime minister's apologies for the distress this may have caused and my most sincere condolences for your loss."

A Downing Street spokeswoman said that as soon as Mr Brown had been informed a letter had not been sent, he had wanted to "immediately" write to Mr Sadler, and that Mr Heywood had also written to "apologise unreservedly".

The spokeswoman added: "When the prime minister was told about the mistake made in not sending the letter to the family of Jack Sadler, he ordered an urgent internal review by the MoD and No 10 to ensure that this mistake had not happened elsewhere.

"He also demanded a review of MoD and No 10 procedures to ensure this could not happen again."

Last month Jacqui Janes criticised the prime minister for misspelling her son Jamie's name in a letter of condolence he sent her following his death.

At the time, Mr Brown said he sends a handwritten letter to every family.

Mr Sadler, a former serviceman, has already written to the Ministry of Defence complaining about other mistakes.

He said the MoD had incorrectly named his unit on the medal certificate, called his son a "tropper" instead of Trooper on an official document and that they were going to put the wrong cap badge on his son's headstone.

The Report is on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday, 3 December at 2000 GMT. You can also listen via the BBC iPlayer after broadcast or download the podcast.

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