An Iraqi man seriously injured when he was accidentally shot by a British soldier has been awarded £2m compensation by the Government in a move which could pave the way for similar claims.
The young man's case – the exact details of which remain sketchy for legal reasons – is "exceptional" because of its "severity", according to the Ministry of Defence.
The as-yet-unnamed victim was left paralysed with severe spinal injuries soon after the invasion of Iraq in September 2003 when a British soldier – one of a group he had befriended – accidentally dropped his gun and the weapon fired.
The Government accepted the shot in question was a "negligent discharge" when the Iraqi man moved to Britain after the incident to pursue his case in the courts here. The final settlement is still awaiting a further High Court hearing.
After the case was highlighted on Channel 4 News last night, a spokesman for the MoD said: "It is not a precedent – it is an exceptional case. It is not expected that there are any other cases of such severity."
However, the award, which is higher than any paid to Iraqis who made compensation claims against the British through their own courts, could set a precedent, according to some MPs.
The Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, Vince Cable, said last night: "The Government claims that this is a completely unique case, but it is very difficult to believe that that is the case. If Iraqis were able to get access to British courts, they would clearly be entitled to much higher levels of compensation, based on this precedent."
The Government faced immediate criticism that the payout was also far higher than compensation issued to British troops injured in Iraq, fuelling the debate over the compensation levels for wounded service personnel.
This was dismissed by the MoD, which rejected comparisons with the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) for injured troops offering a maximum lump sum payment of £285,000. The MoD describes the AFCS as "a compensation scheme for all members of the regular and reserve forces. It provides compensation for all injuries, ill-health and deaths that are mainly due (attributable) to service, the main cause of which occurred on or after the introduction of the scheme on 6 April 2005."
The Royal British Legion and a number of senior military personnel have criticised the Government for allegedly failing to fulfil its duty of care to soldiers .Reuse content