"Kit delays led to soldiers death" - Coroners verdict

#1
The Coroner holding the inquest on Sgt Steve Roberts has recorded a narrative verdict, and does not mince his words:


Oxfordshire assistant deputy coroner Andrew Walker said: "To send soldiers into a combat zone without the appropriate basic equipment is, in my view, unforgivable and inexcusable and represents a breach of trust the soldiers have in those in government.

"I have heard justification and excuse and I put these to one side as I remind myself that Sgt Roberts lost his life because he did not have that basic piece of equipment.

"Sgt Roberts's death was as a result of delay and serious failures in the acquisition and support chain that resulted in a significant shortage within his fighting unit of enhanced combat body armour, none being available for him to wear."
BBC News link
 
#2
Hardly a surprising verdict. Hopefully it will provide closure for Sgt. Roberts's family.

Unfortunately, I can't see it having any impact on the powers that be. There will be a bland non-statement from the MOD (already prepared), which will be quoted on page 17 of tomorrow's papers. In 48 hrs. 90% of those people who read the story will have forgotten it; after all Christmas is much more important, isn't it?

Bitter, me?
 
#3
The deliberate delays in equipping the troops just to pander to the anti war movement was an act of criminal negligence.

Steves wife will only get some kind of closure when those responsible are held to account and prosecuted for their shameful and spineless conduct.
 
#4
There will be a (probably fairly brief) item about this on BBC Radio Five Live "Drive Time" programme about 4.30 pm this afternoon (Monday).
 
#5
Shock horror - lack of kit contributes to soldiers death.

No surprise at all. Effect on procurement in future? The cynic in me says nil.

We will, under current accounting systems, always be forced to minimise kit holdings to save us from paying a whack back to No 11 every year.

It is what comes from trying to run the Services like a business. All that happens is all we see here - a soldier in harms way without a piece of equipment he should have had.

On the wider stage, it means a RAF that is unable to operate unless it has big brother's help, a Navy that can blow most countries off the face of the Earth but unable to protect UK shores and is a toothless wonder for the next 15? yrs until CVF appears and an downsized Army that now classes as a Defence Force by international definition.

When does our name change.....? :(

Rant over
 
#6
As PB has said the verdict is hardly suprising, doubt there will be an apology to his widow though.

It was quite plain at the start of Telic that there was insufficient kit to go round ammo, body armour, NBC suits, goggles, veh spares, dessie boots, clothing, to mention a few.

An Mod spokesman said:
"since Sgt Roberts' death, that from early 2004 it has policy that all personnel were issued with "their own personal set of Enhanced Combat Body Armour before their deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan".

As opposed to " Those whom were responsible for this tragic incident that resulted from a lack of body armour are truly sorry, it's our fault"

How early? Did all troops on Telic 2 deploy with it then?
 
#8
"Sgt Roberts's death was as a result of delay and serious failures in the acquisition and support chain that resulted in a significant shortage within his fighting unit of enhanced combat body armour, none being available for him to wear."

Does this not amount to Gross Negligence? Under other H & S legislation any employer would be deemed liable if he/she had not provided the correct safety equipment. It is the responsibility of the employer amongst other things to provide the kit, instruct in its use and to ensure that it is used. Thus the MoD is culpable, and directly so.

Sgt Roberts had no opportunity to refuse orders on the basis of not having the appropriate kit. He was therefore operating under duress and clearly it was against his better judgement. Had he refused, he would have lost substantially in that (presumably, and at the very least) his career prospects would have been damaged.

Not sure how this applies under Queen's Regs, but it should be investigated by a shrewd lawyer or two.

It's simply not good enough for the Ministry to fail to carry out its job without any form of public liability or sanction. Sadly, this verdict does not bring the matter to conclusion, as there will inevitably be other cases where deaths or injuries arise from inadequate or faulty supply. Just as a minor example, what about faulty ammunition which reduces a soldier's capability to defend himself and/or his colleagues ?

In the final analysis the debate is about who may be responsible for these casualties. More to the point, of course, is 'who' will actually stand up and accept responsibility?
 
#9
Unsworth said:
Does this not amount to Gross Negligence?
Exactly my thoughts. Could this lead to a criminal charge? Manslaughter?
 
#10
Intersting reading - cps charging standards for corporate manslaughter:

<http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/section5/chapter_b.html#_Toc3174419>
 
#11
It's true about Commissar Brown putting a capital charge on Military Stores - in fact he does the same to NHS Hospitals.

The man is a semi-educated Scotsman who does not realise that this way of operating is fine for firms like Hanson or BTR which were financial conglomerates but had no intention of investing; but is a British fixation not shared by growing industrial powers like Germany or Japan or even USA.

It is a silly game not to realise that Government is not a PLC and cannot be if it taxes its own shareholders. Companies are legal fictions which exist within the nation state, just like lawyers and accountants - no ship is more important than the ocean.

Poor silly man has no idea that Accounting is a joke and Bullets are real. We had that shambles in Oman which showed us our deficiencies and Hoon-Blair just polished everything and closed their eyes to match closed minds.

I was surprised that those FN Browning pistols jam - why don't they get 92F Berettas instead ? Don't tank crews have rifles ? and surely tank crews are aware of their equipment and its limitations ?

I still think Blair should have stiffed Bush for $50 billion to buy new kit.........but failing that with 6 months to prepare for the Iraq job, Blair was criminally negligent. At least when Chamberlain went to Munich he had AA guns in London and had already begun to fund Merlin engines and Fighter Command 3 years earlier.
 
#12
its just said the body armour costs just £167 per set FFS when are this government going to give the troops on the ground the proper kit instead of pouring all our fcuking money in illegal immagrants and other low life fcuking scum who can't be bothered getting of there arrse to work!
 
#13
As I read what the Coroner's said this afternoon I remembered a comment by POD that surprised me at the time (early 2003), and now seems particularly inappropriate. It was repeated in an article in the Independent last week, link here. The relevant bit is this:

What of the most important view of all, the soldier's view? What does Tommy Atkins think of General Sir Mike Jackson GCB, CBE, DSO? These days they can often speak for themselves, particularly on websites and blogs. These are not always that complimentary. His view of them is clear too - at least of the difficulties, dangers and privations they have been forced to suffer because of cutbacks and poor logistics. His reply to a BBC interviewer in March 2003 after returning from a tour of inspection in Iraq says it all.

Pressed on the chronic lack of equipment and basic supplies - lack of body armour, poor medical facilities, unsuitable vehicles, let alone decent food and water - which as we now know have led directly to the deaths of troops in Iraq and subsequently Afghanistan he went for another one of his classic put-downs: "Missing your lunch is not exactly the end of the world."
No General, but missing your ECBA might well be.

What, I wonder, did the Chiefs of Staff and ECAB really make of it all at the time?

Don
 
#14
crow_bag said:
trick400 said:
Unsworth said:
Does this not amount to Gross Negligence?
Exactly my thoughts. Could this lead to a criminal charge? Manslaughter?
For anyone else very likely.

For Labour? not a chance, they'd probably manage to worm their ways out of it by passing the blame onto some one else.
Exactly. If this had happened in a private company, outraged Labour MPs would be demanding the directors' heads on a plate. Even if the CPS did decide to prosecute, Lord Goldsmith would simply announce that prosecution is not in the public interest and halt the case.

There is a growing attitude among politicians that they are above the law. Abuse of the Attorney General's powers sets a very dangerous precedent that risks turning Britain into a banana republic.
 
#16
labrat said:
Intersting reading - cps charging standards for corporate manslaughter:

<http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/section5/chapter_b.html#_Toc3174419>
Yes, clear enough. However, the issue may well revolve around the 'contract' between soldiers and their 'employer'. That in turn might be affected by the relationship of Civil to Military Law.

My view is that Military Law is a series of clauses (stipulations) in a contract of employment. As such it would/should be illegal for the contract to take precedence over Corporate Manslaughter legislation. In any event, 'involutary manslaughter by gross negligence' would be a reasonable charge to bring forward.

As I previously suggested, I'd be pleased to hear the opinion of Learned Counsel on this.

And, as an aside, is this not exactly the sort of case for a BAFF to take up?
 
#17
I think the coroner has got it spot on when he says it is a breach of trust between the govt and soldiers to send them to war under equiped. Sgt Roberts paid for that breach with his life but the kit shortages were widespread. Its just as well the Iraqis folded as soon as they did (initially) and most especially that they did not have chemical weapons otherwise there would have been many more cases like that of Sgt Roberts. I got two rather than three combopens (and if you suffering the effects of nerve agent it matters) and both respirator cannisters were out of date when issued just before deployment to the Gulf. "You'll be OK" said the REMF in stores when I asked for cannisters within their use by date. As for POD's comments cited above regarding missing your lunch, if it weren't for American MREs I'd have missed many more meals than just one lunch.
The lack of kit in the field hospital I was with was shocking, we ran out of urine bottles, soap, gloves, bedpans and alcohol hand gel. We should have had the ability to test for blood borne viruses (Hep B, HIV etc) but had no kit so myself and a couple of others had to go cap in hand to the Kuwaitis who were able to help. Geoff (Buff) Hoon told the Commons Defence Select Committee after the war that by the time it started all the soldiers had all the kit they needed. Wonder how he can sleep at night.

Rest in Peace Sgt Roberts, you did your duty, sadly those above you failed in theirs.
 
#19
Unsworth said:
labrat said:
Intersting reading - cps charging standards for corporate manslaughter:
Knew I had read that phrase somewhere, with relation to BLiar

once was here
http://www.eppweb.com/Accountability/Iraq War/2002/Pre Iraq War.htm

And the other was here
http://www.pprune.org/forums/showthread.php?t=215665

Mainly on about the RAF Hercs, but yes I would love to see the Govt taken to task on this as well!

RIP Sgt Roberts and condolences to Mrs Roberts
 
#20
THE EVIDENCE

1. Extract from Sandy Times dated 12 March 2003 www.operations.mod.uk/telic/sandy.pdf.
The Army’s most senior soldier, General Sir Mike Jackson, put it in a nutshell. “We’re ready to go now if ordered,” said the CGS in his exclusive interview with this paper. In interviews for Gulf news and British television, he was even more to the point, saying: “We’re good to go”.

2. Extract from BBC website of 15 December 2006 on the Coroner’s Inquest on the death of Sergeant Roberts www.news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6183445.stm
Dead soldier tape accuses general
‘The tapes run from 13 March - when the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment were in Kuwait preparing to enter Iraq - until 23 March.
He also recorded a tape for his wife Samantha in the event of his death.
In one extract, Sgt Roberts tells her: "I know now why I am here and what I'm doing.
"Children are walking around with bare feet, completely ill-fitting, tattered old clothes. We're over here to free them from the regime they're under so they can grow up and do whatever they want to do."
'Running out'
The lack of equipment is repeatedly referred to in Sgt Roberts' recordings.
In one he says: "General Jackson said 'we're ready to go', and our vehicles are still in the boat, ready to come into port. What a blatant lie that was."
He said it was "a bit of a joke running out of frontal armour and comnets (radios), interesting to see what armour I actually get - I'll keep you posted obviously."
On 21 March he says preparations were going well but adds: "Still haven't seen my combats yet. Kit we're being told we are going to get, we're not. It's disheartening because we know we're going to have to go to war without the correct equipment." ‘


Over 3 years later:


3. Extract from the Dimbleby Lecture by General Jackson on 6 December 2006:

www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2006/12_december/07/dimbleby.shtml


‘How stretched is the Army? Although arithmetically the Army is on average more or less within its deployment guidelines, by definition average includes those parts of the Army which are outside those guidelines. And we could well be asking too much over the long haul in terms of frequency of operational deployment, to say nothing of the conditions of service under which our soldiers undertake this long haul.

It all comes down to a question of balance: balance between capabilities within the defence budget - how much of this, how much of that; current operations against what may be required in the future; not only current operations, but current training which is the investment for our capability in the future; people against technology - that's pay for example, accommodation standards for example, against current and future equipment. This should not be a dilemma incidentally, this should not be a zero sum or an either/or. We should be able to provide what is required for soldiers to be fully and properly equipped, thoroughly trained, decently paid, and, together with their families, decently housed. They deserve nothing less.’


4. Extract from today’s BBC website (18 December 2006)

www.news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/bradford/6190337.stm

Oxfordshire assistant deputy coroner Andrew Walker recorded a narrative verdict at Sgt Roberts' Oxford inquest.
Sgt Roberts, originally from Wadebridge, Cornwall, was the first British soldier killed in action in Iraq.
'Breach of trust'
The inquest heard delays supplying the £167 piece of kit meant more than 2,000 soldiers went into combat without the new armour.
Mr Walker said: "To send soldiers into a combat zone without the appropriate basic equipment is, in my view, unforgivable and inexcusable and represents a breach of trust the soldiers have in those in government.
"I have heard justification and excuse and I put these to one side as I remind myself that Sgt Roberts lost his life because he did not have that basic piece of equipment.

"Sgt Roberts's death was as a result of delay and serious failures in the acquisition and support chain that resulted in a significant shortage within his fighting unit of enhanced combat body armour, none being available for him to wear."


It would be interesting to know General Jackson’s comments on his assertions as reported on 12 March 2003. What was the basis of his assessment at that time?
 
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