Red Cap's family sues MoD for negligence over his death in Iraq


The family of a Royal Military Police officer killed by a crowd of Iraqis is suing the for negligence.

Corporal Russell Aston, 30, was killed alongside five other army Red Caps when a 400-strong group of Iraqis descended on a police station in Majar al-Kabir in June 2003.

On Wednesday it emerged that his family had launched legal action against the MoD for negligence, following a supreme court ruling last month.

In the legal claim, the family alleges that Aston's commanders failed to take reasonable measures to keep him and his fellow officers safe. Aston was from Swadlincote in Derbyshire.

His family's legal claim says the MoD was negligent because the Red Caps were not supplied with sufficient ammunition to defend themselves, or roadworthy vehicles or effective communications.

It is expected that families of the other Red Caps who died in the incident will join the legal action, the lawyer for the Aston family said.

The other officers were Sergeant Simon Hamilton-Jewell, 41, from Chessington, Surrey; Corporal Paul Long, 24, of South Shields, Tyne and Wear; Lance Corporal Benjamin McGowan Hyde, 23, from Northallerton, North Yorkshire; Lance Corporal Tom Keys, 20, from Llanuwchllyn, north Wales; and Corporal Simon Miller, 21, from Washington, Tyne and Wear.

Simon McKay, the solicitor advocate who is acting for the families of Aston and Miller, said: "The claims follow a recent supreme court ruling extending the reach of the European convention on human rights [ECHR] to some theatres of war and the scope of combat immunity as a defence available to the Ministry of Defence."

He said the claim alleges that the government breached article 2 of the ECHR by failing to take measures that it was expected to in light of the "real and immediate risk to life" of the soldiers.

McKay added that the claim included allegations of a failure to provide sufficient ammunition on 24 June 2003; a failure to provide roadworthy vehicles; and a failure to ensure effective communications were provided to the soldiers.

He said it would be open to the MoD to argue that the claims were out of time, but he hoped it would not try to "avoid accountability on a technical basis", adding: "The justice of the case demands the families get a fair hearing."

The move comes after families of British soldiers killed and injured fighting in Iraq were last month given the go-ahead to pursue compensation claims against the government.

The supreme court ruled that damages claims could be launched under legislation covering negligence and human rights.

The defence secretary, Philip Hammond, said he was concerned with the wider implications of the judgment, which potentially throws open a range of military decisions to the "uncertainty of litigation".

Asked about the legal action by Aston's family, an MoD spokesman said: "Our thoughts remain with the families of those who lost their lives in this incident. However, it would be inappropriate to comment on any forthcoming legal proceedings."