Court rules lack of equipment could ‘breach troops’ human rights’

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) could breach troops’ human rights if it sends them into war with defective equipment, the high court ruled today.

Mr Justice Collins declared that human rights legislation could be applied to military personnel on active service, in a defeat for the MoD.

The ruling could change the way future military inquests are held as an attempt by the government to have critical language restricted by coroners was also rejected by the court today.

The controversy over inquest guidelines was raised during the inquest into the death of Scottish soldier Private Jason Smith, 32, who died of heatstroke in Iraq.

Ministry of Defence (MoD) lawyers had argued in court that it was impossible for British troops on active service to be given “the benefits of the Human Rights Act”.

However, the high court declared that the soldiers should be provided with some type of legal protection no matter where they were.

The MoD has been granted permission to appeal against the ruling.

The Liberal Democrats said the court ruling should act as a wake up call to the government about the dangers of equipment shortages on the front line.

Lib Dem defence spokesman Nick Harvey said soldiers were not suffering a lack of the most expensive, high-end equipment, but losing lives over “penny pinching.

“That a judge feels he must even raise the issue of soldiers’ human rights is a damning indictment of all the avoidable deaths that have occurred in Iraq and Afghanistan due to faulty or unavailable kit,” he said.

Mr Harvey added: “The court has also rightly slapped down the MoD’s attempts to gag coroners when they give their verdicts on armed forces deaths.”