Future court scenario?

On 27 January 2008, Pte S Tabb of the Royal Loamshire Volunteer Engineers was seriously injured by a roadside bomb beside the vehicle checkpoint he was manning near Shiraz, Durkadurkastan. He was swiftly evacuated but, despite the best efforts of the reservist medics who treated him, his right leg was amputated and he lost his vision in his right eye.

In the civil legal action which followed, Pte (now Mr) S Tabb was represented by Dr Evil QC. Here is an excerpt from the court transcript, where Dr Evil is engaged in some American-style cross-examination.

First witness: Mr P Lebb, principal under-secretary, Ministry of Defence.

Evil: Mr Lebb, look at the bundle of documents in front of you. At page 32 you will find a "position paper" dated 25 May 2006 entitled "Stabbed in the Front". Who authored that paper?

Lebb: I did.

Evil: So you wrote paragraph 2, in which it is stated: "The TA is to become better trained for more frequent operational use. It is to be more closely aligned with the regular Army. It will become more suited to, and more relevant for, the current operational needs of the British Army and the nation."?

Lebb: Yes.

Evil: Was the plan you describe in your position paper implemented?

Lebb (smugly): It was.

Evil (smiling): And I suppose it was another example of MoD waste, with costs of the change escalating beyond predictions?"

Lebb: Not at all. In fact, there was no increase in spending.

Second witness: Brigadier T Ightfist MC, OBE

Evil: You were in overall command of British military operations in the Fars region of Durkadurkastan at the time of Pte Tabb's injury?

Ightfist: That's correct.

Evil: Look at page 132 of the bundle of documents in front of you. Please tell the court what that is.

Ightfist: It is a copy of an interview I gave to the Daily Telegraph at the beginning of our deployment to Durkadurkastan.

Evil: Please read the fourth paragraph.

Ightfist (reading): "The brigade is being reinforced by 750 individual replacements provided by the Territorial Army Corps. Now, between you and me, I would rather have regular soldiers than reservists. But I'd rather have decent numbers than go without."

Evil: You stand by that statement, don't you?

Ightfist: Yes.

Evil: But an individual replacement you receive is supposed to be equivalent to his regular Army counterpart, isn't he?

Ightfist: He is. But the ...

Evil: Please wait for my questions Brigadier. Is an individual replacement exactly equivalent to his regular Army counterpart?

Ightfist (stroppy): No. All IRs take a while to bring up to speed. Their training cannot equate to what regulars get. Perhaps just as important, IRs are (at first) deployed without the supporting structure of their fellow soldiers from the TA, whereas the units they augment have worked together for years.

Third witness: Lt Col I Smile-Brightly MBE

Evil: Colonel, you are commanding officer of the Royal Loamshire Volunteer Engineers?

Smile-Brightly: Yes.

Evil: For how long have you held that appointment?

Smile-Brightly (smiling brightly): Four years in total. On for a bit, off for a bit.

Evil: Colonel, please look at the document at page 198 of the bundle. What is it?

Smile-Brightly: It's my regiment's training plan for 2007.

Evil: Was that plan created in light of the changes brought about in light of the "Stabbed in the Front" paper? Increased likelihood of operational deployment for your soldiers, more realistic training for the role, etc.?

Smile-Brightly: It was. I think we did a good job of it.

Evil: Please look at the document at page 172. What is it?

Smile-Brightly: It's our training plan for 2004.

Evil: Can I draw your attention to the highlighted parts of the 2007 plan? Please tell the court what they are.

Smiles-Brightly: Public order training, infantry work.

Evil: How many days of each were provided to your soldiers in 2007?

Smiles-Brightly: Four. Of each.

Evil: And in 2004?

Smiles-Brightly: Two of each.

Evil: That's not a big increase, is it?

Smiles-Brightly: Actually, we were chuffed to get that much, resources being what they are.

Evil: How much training in infantry and public order work did Pte Tabb receive before his deployment?

Smiles-Brightly: Well, it was all a bit rushed. I think he had another few days. But we kind of lost track of him once he entered the system.

Evil: Lost track?

Smiles-Brightly: Yes, well. Once an IR goes through Chilwell he ceases to be our responsibility, although of course we try to look after them from the welfare point of view.

Evil: So do you know whether anyone at any point, other than Pte Tabb himself, was in a position to point out inadequacies in the training he had had for the job he was about to do?

Smiles-Brightly: I presume the officers in the receiving unit would have spotted it and dealt with it.

Evil: But aren't they expecting a soldier fully trained for the role?

Smiles-Brightly: They are.

Evil: And was Pte Tabb?

Smiles-Brightly: Erm ...

In the leading case on the duty of care owed by TA officers and the Ministry of Defence to individual replacements, Mr Tabb was awarded £3.5 million in damages, reduced to £3.1 million on appeal. The trial judge described "Stabbed in the Front" as "a triumph of hope and miserliness over experience and the loyalty of those who prized serving their country too highly." It was the first of 127 similar cases brought on behalf of injured individual replacement soldiers in the two years following Britain's initial deployment to Durkadurkastan. Payouts now total some £273 million, and rising. Dr Evil QC is very rich.
NB: the courtroom scenario above was lifted by a moderator from the TA/SNCO: the honest truth thread so that it could bask in the limelight on its own. So for context, check out that thread.

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