Mum’s fresh legal fight for answers over Redcap son’s death

Pat Long, from Hebburn, remembers her Redcap son, Corporal Paul Long.
Pat Long, from Hebburn, remembers her Redcap son, Corporal Paul Long.

A South Tyneside mother whose Redcap son was killed by an armed mob in Iraq has renewed her legal bid for a new independent inquiry into his death - on the 12th anniversary of the tragedy.

Corporal Paul Long, 24, and five Royal Military Police (RMP) colleagues died on June 24 2003 after the police station they were sent to, in Majar-al-Kabir in south east Iraq, to meet police they had been tasked to develop, was surrounded and attacked.

What we want is to understand what happened. How can you learn the lessons if you do not know what went wrong?

Michael Fordham, QC

Patricia Long was at the Court of Appeal in London for the start of her challenge to a ruling by High Court judges that she did not have a “right in law” to have another investigation.

They said last year: “We have held that the right of a soldier under Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights to have his life protected by law does not include a right to be safeguarded from human error, including negligent error, in the conduct of military operations which result in the risk of death on active service being greater than it would otherwise have been.’’

Michael Fordham QC, for Mrs Long, from Hebburn, had argued that all the formal inquiries so far, including an inquest, had failed to get to the bottom of how mistakes that led to the deaths were made - and who was responsible for them.

He said that the six Red Caps had been sent to the police station without an iridium satellite phone, which might have enabled them to call for help.

This was despite a clear order, issued a month before by the Commander of the Battle Group occupying Maysan Province, that all patrols should have the equipment.

Today, Mr Fordham told the Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, sitting with Lord Justice Lewison and and Lord Justice Underhill, that the High Court was wrong to say that no investigative duty was triggered as there was no arguable substantive breach of Article 2.

It was also wrong to find that any investigative duty had been discharged by steps already taken and that there was no continuing duty - in that it was no longer the position that the authorities could reasonably be expected to take measures to elucidate the circumstances and responsibility.

He said: “The question which has hung over this case for 12 years is - if there was an order a month earlier that all patrols should have this means of communication - whose responsibility was it to ensure compliance?

“Whose responsibility was it to check and to prevent patrols going out if they did not have a phone?

“And how can it be that an order of that kind, from the top, could be left unapplied?”

He added: “The truth that needs to come out is `what is it that went wrong?’.

“Who was responsible for communicating the order? Why was it disregarded?

“What we want is to understand what happened. How can you learn the lessons if you do not know what went wrong?”

It was not an answer to say that what happened was the result of human error and was the responsibility of “someone in the chain of command”.

“That broad generality is not the truth coming to light.”

The hearing, which is contested by the Secretary of State for Defence, is expected to continue into tomorrow with judgment reserved to a later date.