ITN - Minister's bid to silence coroners
The Government has launched a legal battle to stop coroners blaming the Ministry of Defence for the deaths of soldiers. Defence Secretary Des Browne asked the High Court to ban coroners using language that is strongly critical of the ministry in their verdicts. The Defence Secretary Des Browne asked the High Court to ban coroners using strongly critical language of the ministry in their verdicts.
The application came in a test case relating to Territorial Army soldier Private Jason Smith, 32, who died of heatstroke in southern Iraq. Oxfordshire's assistant deputy coroner, Andrew Walker, recorded that Pte Smith's death was "caused by a serious failure to recognise and take appropriate steps to address the difficulty that he had in adjusting to the climate". The Defence Secretary's legal team said the coroner should not have used the words "serious failure" as it could be seen as deciding civil liability for the death - a breach of the rules governing inquests. But lawyers acting for the late soldier's mother Catherine Smith, from Roxburghshire, Scotland, said the legal challenge was "misconceived".