Judge rules against Basra bomb blast victim

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The Independent Online

An electrical engineer who lost his shoulder in a roadside bomb blast in Basra lost his £1 million-plus court action today

Graham Hopps, 45, blamed his former employer, Mott Macdonald Ltd, and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for not supplying armoured vehicles to transport men working on contracts in Iraq.

The father of two, from Selby Road, Whitkirk, Leeds, was injured in October 2003 when the soft-skinned Land Rover provided by the army came under attack as it was travelling on a road known as "Bomb Alley".

Another passenger sustained a fatal head wound and Mr Hopps's dominant right arm and shoulder were shattered, leaving him with little movement, as well as hearing loss and tinnitus.

Mr Hopps, who claimed that the incident deprived him of the opportunity of pursuing a lucrative overseas career, is now limited to work as a manager in an office-based environment.

His counsel, Nigel Wilkinson QC, told Mr Justice Christopher Clarke that the MoD should have recognised that the existing arrangements of soft-skinned vehicles with top-up cover were not proper protection for those travelling in Iraq at that time.

And, he said Mott Macdonald should have ordered an investigation into the security situation and assessed it when the firm took on its contractual obligations.

But the judge said he found it impossible to conclude that the likelihood was that if Mr Hopps had been in an armoured vehicle he would probably not have suffered the injury that he did or that his injuries would have been less serious.

Dismissing Mr Hopps's case, he said: "The fact that I have done so in no way reduces the great credit due to him for the contribution which, at much personal cost, he has made to improving the lot of the Iraqi people."

Mr Hopps was not at London's High Court for the ruling.

Mr Hopps had told the court in a statement: "There was a loud bang and everything seemed to stop. I could smell cordite and was aware of extreme pain in my right shoulder and arm.

"It appeared that my right arm was hanging off and I was very frightened."

Even now his sleep was seriously disrupted and what happened came flooding back if he watched the news, he said.

"Every now and again I can picture the bang and I have difficulty sitting in the back of a car. I still have pictures in my mind of what happened and I recall thinking that I had lost my arm and holding on to it for dear life."

He said he had discussed the situation at length with his wife, Dawn, before taking the Iraq job.

They had agreed that he should go for it as it would allow him to retire early, but his earnings were now significantly less than he had received in his previous "hands-on" role.

In his ruling in favour of the defendants, who both denied liability, the judge said the number of attacks at the time of the incident appeared to be increasing, but their nature and the improvised explosive devices involved - and their consequences - did not seem such that armoured vehicles should have been ordered for civilian contractors.

The circumstances applicable to the Coalition Provisional Authority and Army personnel, for whom such vehicles had been provided, were different, as they were priority targets inherently more likely to be exposed to attack than civilian contractors seeking to reconstruct local services.

Even if, contrary to his view, a reasonable employer should have realised at the end of September 2003 or the beginning of October that an armoured vehicle was necessary, it was not likely that it would have arrived before the date of the incident.

He added that he was not satisfied that the level of risk from IED attacks was such that Mr Hopps should have been confined to the compound until an armoured vehicle was available to transport him.