Page last updated at 10:58 GMT, Wednesday, 2 December 2009

'Friendly fire' court case halted

Cpl Stephen Allbutt
Cpl Stephen Allbutt had wanted to join the Army since he was a boy

Lawyers for a widow whose husband was killed in a "friendly fire" incident in Iraq have halted a legal challenge against the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Cpl Stephen Allbutt, 35, from Staffordshire, died in Basra in March 2003 when tanks, under the command of Lt Col Lindsay MacDuff, opened fire.

Trooper David Clarke, 19, from Stafford, also died.

Mrs Allbutt said she was upset the MoD had disclosed new material and that a civil case would continue.

At an inquest, in July 2007, into the two men's deaths, coroner Andrew Walker said Col MacDuff, who was commanding B Company, 1 Black Watch, had "failed to appreciate" the danger the men were in.

Disciplinary action

He also said there was "no evidence" that Col MacDuff had broadcast Cpl Allbutt's position over the radio.

Mrs Allbutt, of Stoke-on-Trent, launched her judicial review action against the MoD in May 2008, saying it was unreasonable not to take disciplinary action.

The MoD said it was inappropriate to do so as the reviewing officer considered it impossible, without evidence, to prove Col MacDuff had not sent the message.

Mrs Allbutt's lawyers have now told a High Court judge the decision to discontinue was taken in light of material disclosed by the MoD that showed the reviewing officer listened to evidence tapes given at the inquest twice before taking his decision.

The MoD has not yet commented on the decision to halt the proceedings.

However, Mrs Allbutt has said she intends to carry on with a civil case, which was put on hold when the case for a judical review began.

At the inquest, the coroner recorded a narrative verdict for Cpl Allbutt.



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