South East Wales

Scrapping soldier duty of care is a 'cop-out', mother says

Richard Hunt

A woman whose son died after serving in Afghanistan has called a decision to scrap the legal duty of care to combat personnel a "cop-out".

Helen Hunt's son Richard died in 2009 after his vehicle hit an improvised bomb in Helmand Province.

Ms Hunt, from Abergavenny, said the Ministry of Defence did not seem to have "responsibility" for soldiers, and suggested it could get worse in future.

The change would prevent soldiers suing the MoD for negligence.

Compensation would instead by awarded an an MoD-appointed assessor.

Ms Hunt and her family did not seek compensation after Richard died and there was no criticism of his equipment or vehicle, but she later set up the Richard Hunt Foundation to help Welsh service personnel and their families.

She told BBC Radio Wales families she has had contact with had struggled even under the current system.

"It has been quite traumatic for them but it's going to be, whatever the outcome, mainly because they come up against almost a brick wall, and it's up to them or the lad who's been injured to prove what happened to them," she said.

"The MoD just don't seem to have this responsibility of care even now, let alone in the future."

'Brick walls'

Asked about the proposed change to how compensation is decided, she replied: "I think it's just another big cop-out from the MoD.

"I have yet to come across anybody who has a good word to say about them, I'm afraid, because they do put up these brick walls.

"They can be downright rude, they can be extremely difficult and they do try to stall everybody all the way along. Their first and last thing they are thinking of is covering their own backsides."

She added: "The MoD sent the people out there with good, bad or indifferent equipment, tell them what they want and the lads are supposed to get on with it.

"They do the job extremely well, and to come back, or not as the case may be, and the MoD putting their hands up and saying, 'it's nothing to do with us', I think is appalling."

The MoD said the proposals, which are being consulted on until next week, would lead to "better compensation".

A spokesman said: "Regardless of legal action, we already prioritise learning lessons from any incidents involving the safety of our personnel.

"Where there have been serious injuries or fatalities, we have robust systems and processes in place that allow us to record and investigate these accordingly, and in the unfortunate case of a death, the requirement for an independent inquest to determine the cause will of course remain."

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