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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 June 2006, 15:15 GMT 16:15 UK
Coroner slams troops' equipment
Shaun Brierley
Lance Corporal Shaun Brierley was killed in Kuwait
A coroner has hit out at the failure to properly equip British troops in the lead-up to the Iraq war.

Nicholas Gardiner made his comments while recording a verdict of accidental death into the death of Lance Corporal Shaun Brierley, of Batley, in Kuwait.

L/Cpl Brierley, 28, was travelling in a vehicle with infrared plates fitted over a headlight, which led to the crash in March 2003, the court heard.

Mr Gardiner said he would write to the Defence Secretary to air his criticism.

Mr Brierley, who was not wearing a seat belt, suffered brain and abdominal injuries in the crash while serving with the 1st (UK) Armoured Division Signals Regiment.

Night vision

The inquest heard the infared plate, designed to deter friendly fire, stopped the lights picking up a large mound of tarmac in the road and the driver crashed into it, overturning the Land Rover.

According to one of the officers tasked to design the friendly fire equipment, they were given just two weeks, in December 2002, after discussions between Whitehall, the Ministry of Defence and the US, to come up with designs for manufacture in February 2003 and deployment soon after.

The court was told that the Combat ID Plates were only to be fitted when night vision equipment was being used instead of headlights.

But L/Cpl Brierley's driver, Signalman Carl Cunningham, said they were not told anything about when the plates should be fitted and he would not have removed them.

"They were fitted to the vehicles and that was it," he told the inquest.

They didn't know how to fit those Combat ID Plates and they were not given enough instruction because it was a rushed job
L/Cpl Brierley's father Peter

Recording his verdict, Mr Gardiner, told L/Cpl Brierley's family, including his partner, Brigit Riesenbeck, and his six-year-old son Patrick, that he would be writing to Defence Secretary Des Browne.

He said: "I do rather get the impression that this was only something that occurred to the powers that be rather late in the day.

"They should have been making plans to properly equip their vehicles at a much earlier point."

Speaking afterwards, L/Cpl Brierley's father Peter, a member of the Stop the War Coalition who recently went to the House of Lords seeking an independent inquiry into the Iraq war, said his son's death was the result of a "rushed job".

"Accidents can happen anywhere but there were so many things there that, had they been addressed, this accident would not have happened," he said.

"It's because of the speed they went there. They didn't know how to fit those Combat ID Plates and they were not given enough instruction because it was a rushed job."

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