Victory for families as dead Iraq soldiers' relatives told they can sue Government for negligence

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The families of soldiers killed fighting in Iraq can now claim for damages for negligence against the Government, senior judges said in a 'landmark' ruling today.

Lawyers representing relatives of troops hailed the Court of Appeal decision, though they insisted that they would continue the fight so that families will also be able to claim damages through human rights legislation - a decision that Appeal judges denied today.

They said families would take the human rights battle to the Supreme Court.

The mother of one soldier wept outside court as she described the Ministry of Defence's attitude as "despicable".

Sue Smith, 51, of Tamworth, Staffordshire, whose 21-year-old son Private Phillip Hewett was killed seven years ago, said: "It is just so dismissive. It 'doesn't matter'. They are Action Men. If you break them, just bury them.

"But they are not just Action Men. People need to make a stand."

Relatives had argued that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) failed to provide armoured vehicles or equipment which could have saved lives and should pay compensation.

The MoD argued that decisions about battlefield equipment were for politicians and military commanders.

Legal action was started as a result of the deaths of a number of British soldiers following the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Corporal Stephen Allbutt, 35, of Sneyd Green, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, was killed in a "friendly fire" incident in March 2003, judges were told.

He died after a Challenger 2 tank was hit by another Challenger 2 tank.

Soldiers Dan Twiddy, of Stamford, Lincolnshire, and Andy Julien, of Bolton, Greater Manchester, were badly hurt in the incident.

Private Hewett, 21, of Tamworth, died in July 2005 after a Snatch Land Rover was blown up.

Similar explosions claimed the lives of Private Lee Ellis, 23, of Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester, in February 2006, and Lance Corporal Kirk Redpath, 22, of Romford, Essex, in August 2007.

Three appeal judges, Lord Neuberger, who was then the Master of the Rolls, Lord Justice Moses and Lord Justice Rimer heard evidence at a hearing in London in June - and announced their decision today.

The Court of Appeal analysed claims following challenges to rulings made by High Court judge Mr Justice Owen in June 2011.