Page last updated at 11:24 GMT, Monday, 18 May 2009 12:24 UK

Mother's joy at test case verdict

Catherine Smith
Mrs Smith said she was delighted by the Court of Appeal decision

The mother of a Scots soldier who died of heat stroke in Iraq has spoken of her joy at the verdict in a test case which centred on her son's death.

Judges have decided that the Human Rights Act can apply to British troops, even in the battlefield.

Catherine Smith, from Hawick, whose son Jason lost his life in 2003, said she was "delighted" with the verdict.

She said she felt something had been done to support other soldiers going into war zones around the world.

Mrs Smith said: "I am absolutely delighted and relieved by the result.

"This victory is not for me, nothing can bring Jason back, but it is for all those brave men and women who are still risking their lives in our name.

"It is also for families who still have to go through the trauma of an inquest."

'Simple steps'

She said that it was important that soldiers and their families had the support of human rights legislation.

Mrs Smith said her son had understood the risk he was taking when he went to Iraq.

Jason Smith
Jason Smith died of heat stroke in Iraq in August 2003

However, she felt it had emerged that much more could have been done to avoid his death.

She said: "Jason knew he could die and I accept this.

"But I found out at the inquest that simple steps that could have been taken - like providing air conditioning units which were available 12 kilometres away - weren't taken and this put his life at risk unnecessarily."

The test case decision came after two separate investigations into Pte Smith's death.

A coroner's inquest concluded that he would not have died if "proper procedures" had been followed in his treatment.

It criticised the army's failure to recognise the problems he was suffering in the extreme heat.

A subsequent Army board of inquiry report, however, highlighted other concerns - particularly about the Territorial Army soldier's weight and fitness levels.

The latest legal process began with a judicial review requested by Pte Smith's family, following the inquest into his death.

The MoD accepted that the Human Rights Act applied in his case, as he died on a British military base.

Further appeal

However, in a judgement last April, Mr Justice Collins ruled more widely that the MoD had an obligation to avoid or minimise risks to the lives of its troops, wherever they were serving - even while on patrol or in battle.

Otherwise, he said it risked breaching the "right to life" enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

The MoD appealed amid fears that the judgement raised serious questions over sending troops into combat abroad, because absolute protection could never be guaranteed on the battlefield.

Judges have now rejected that appeal but the MoD still has the option to take the case to the House of Lords.



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