Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Military Inquests- More delays

Matty HullBecause of our archaic laws and Government and MOD inertia inquests for Service Personnel killed overseas will be even more delayed as a result of a change in location of the Inquests. The reason for this change is that Brize Norton, in Oxfordshire, where all flights used to end is being redeveloped and so the Military Transport aircraft will now have to land a RAF Lyneham which is in Wiltshire. This means the Wiltshire Coroner now has to lead all proceedings.

Geraldine McCool, the solicitor who represented the family of Matty Hull, who was killed near Basra in March 2003 when a US pilot fired on his tank convoy, said she was "appalled" to learn of the decision.

"We have at least got now established in Oxford a centre of excellence for army deaths - and to hear that that is going to change for no good reason whatsoever is very disturbing," she told the BBC.

She added that spreading the workload around the country looked "initially quite attractive" but was actually "foolhardy".

Coroner Andrew Walker and two others were brought into Oxfordshire last May to clear a backlog of 85 cases of dead service personnel awaiting hearings.

Shadow Defence Minister Liam Fox said:

"There's a lot of hardship and a lot of heartache that's being endured by service families here, and the government needs to address this a little more thoroughly than they've been willing to do up 'til now."

The Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) said that no new resources had been allocated to Wiltshire, but this was under review.

A spokesman said Oxfordshire had done a "fantastic" job, but that relatives of service personnel had found travelling long distances difficult.

He added:
"We are confident that any coroner can build up the same level of expertise on military inquests as Mr Walker and his colleagues did."
Considering it took over 3 years to "build up" that expertise in Oxfordshire, it will take a while before this will happen.

BBC NEWS | UK | Military inquest venue to change

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