Families of South Tyneside soldiers killed in Iraq backing new legal action fundraising appeal

Elsie Manning, mother of Staff Sgt Sharron Elliott, who was killed in Iraq
Elsie Manning, mother of Staff Sgt Sharron Elliott, who was killed in Iraq
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The mothers of South Tyneside soldiers killed in Iraq are backing a fund-raising appeal to bring possible legal action against former prime minister Tony Blair and Government officials over the controversial invasion of the country.

The Iraq War Families Campaign Group has launched the bid to raise £50,000 to “bring to justice those responsible for the war and the deaths of our loved ones”.

Pat Long  with a photograph of her son Corporal Paul Long, who died in Iraq in 2003.

Pat Long with a photograph of her son Corporal Paul Long, who died in Iraq in 2003.

It comes weeks after the Chilcot report criticised Mr Blair, other leading politicians and senior officials over their actions before, during and after the conflict, in which 179 British service personnel died.

The group is led by Roger Bacon and Reg Keys, whose sons were both killed in Iraq.

Elsie Manning, from South Shields, who lost her daughter Staff Sgt Sharron Elliott, 34, when her boat was blown up near Basra in November 2006, is one of those involved in the campaign.

Pat Long, whose son Paul died aged 24 along with five other Royal Military Police after they had been sent to a police station in Majar-al-Kabir in south east Iraq, is also involved

“We’ve got a good team of players behind us and if we can get the money in, even if people donatye £1 each we’ll have a real chance of bringing the case.”

Elsie Manning

The group is aiming to raise £150,000 in total to fund lawyers, McCue & Partners - working free of charge - to fully analyse the 2.6 million-word report by Sir John Chilcot and prepare “a comprehensive opinion approved by expert senior counsel”.

The report strongly criticised the way former prime minister Mr Blair took the country to war in 2003 on the basis of “flawed” intelligence with inadequate preparation at a time when Saddam Hussein did not pose an “imminent threat”.

Mrs Manning, 72, said: “We’ve got a good team of players behind us and, if we can get the money in, we’ll have a real chance of bringing the case,

“No Governments are ever going to do anything about it. We need justice for our kids and this is the way we are doing it.”

Mrs Long, 64, of Jarrow, said: “We just have to hope and pray that we get the money in now.

“The appeal is getting quite a lot in already and we want that to continue so that we can get those responsible in a court room.”

Mrs Manning added that the publication of the Chilcot report had provided a huge boost to the families of the fallen.

“The report has given us a new lease of life,” she said.

“I might not even be here when we take the legal action and the outcome arrives, but my other children will never let it drop.”

Sir John also said the way the decision about the legal basis for the war was reached was “far from satisfactory”, but his report did not rule on the legality of the military action.

Mr Blair has defended the decision to invade Iraq and insisted that his efforts to form a close relationship with the US had persuaded President George W Bush to pursue a second UN Security Council resolution, which ultimately was not obtained.

Matthew Jury, from McCue & Partners, said: “The report told us what went wrong and who was responsible but it was not a court of law.

“If they can, the families are determined to hold those individuals to account by bringing them to trial to answer for their actions.”

More than £40,000 has been raised so far for the appeal, which can be seen at https://www.crowdjustice.co.uk/case/chilcot/.

PANEL

The key points to come from the Chilcot report included:

The UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before “peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted” and “military action at that time was not a last resort”.

Saddam Hussein posed “no imminent threat” at the time of the invasion.

Tony Blair’s September 2002 Commons statement and dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) made judgments that “were presented with a certainty that was not justified”.

The Labour Government’s policy on Iraq was made on the basis of “flawed intelligence and assessments” that should have been challenged.

Consequences of the invasion were “under-estimated”, and planning and preparation for the overthrow of Saddam were “wholly inadequate”.

No support for Blair critics’ claim that he agreed a deal “signed in blood” to topple Saddam with US president George W Bush in April 2002. But in July 2002 Blair wrote to Bush: “I will be with you whatever.”

The MoD was slow to respond to the threat of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) to troops.

Delays in providing better patrol vehicles “should not have been tolerated”.

It was “humiliating” that by 2007 British troops in Basra had to use prisoner exchanges to get militias to stop targeting them.