Skip to main content

Service Personnel Inquests (Operations and Exercises Overseas)

Volume 522: debated on Monday 31 January 2011

My hon. Friend the Minister for the Armed Forces and I wish to make the latest of our quarterly statements to the House with details of the inquests of service personnel who have died overseas. We remain deeply grateful to all of our service personnel who are serving, or who have served, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Our most sincere condolences go, as ever, to the families of those service personnel who have lost their lives in the service of their country, and in particular to the nine who have died since our last statement. All of the families whose loved ones have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, or who have otherwise lost their lives in connection with the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, remain very much in our thoughts.

Today we are announcing the current status of inquests conducted by the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner, and other coroners in England and Wales. This statement gives the position at 25 January.

I have placed tables in the Libraries of both Houses, which outline the status of all cases and the date of death in each case. These tables include information about cases where a board of inquiry or a service inquiry has been held.

Our Departments remain committed to working closely together to improve our processes and to continue the Government’s support for coroners conducting inquests into operational deaths. As a result of these improvements, the dedication of coroners and the support from both Departments, 130 inquests were completed in 2010, compared with 58 inquests being completed in 2009. There are no outstanding inquests into deaths prior to 4 December 2008.

We would again like to thank all of the coroners who are involved in conducting these inquests, as well as those people who provide support and information before, during and after the inquest process.

Since October 2007 additional resources have been provided by both Departments for operational inquests. These resources have been provided to the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner, Mr David Ridley, due to the repatriation of service personnel at RAF Lyneham and the formation of the MOD Defence Inquests Unit in 2008. These measures have been provided to ensure that there is not a backlog of operational inquests.

Current status of inquests

Since the last statement 20 inquests have been held into the deaths of service personnel on operations in Iraq or Afghanistan.

There have been a total of 435 inquests into the deaths of service personnel who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, including 11 service personnel who died in the UK of their injuries. In two further cases, no formal inquest was held, but the deaths were taken into consideration during inquest proceedings for those who died in the same incident.

Open inquests

Fatalities in Iraq and Afghanistan

At present there are 80 open inquests to be concluded into the deaths of service personnel who died in Iraq and Afghanistan, (25 involving deaths in the last six months). Of the remaining open inquests, the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner has retained 33, while 47 are being conducted by coroners closer to the next of kin. Hearing dates have been set in five cases. One recent fatality awaits repatriation and inquest opening

There are two remaining open inquests into deaths from operations in Iraq.

Inquests into the deaths of service personnel who returned home injured

There remain 11 inquests to be held of service personnel who returned home injured and subsequently died of their injuries. These will be listed for hearing when the continuing investigations are completed.

We shall continue to keep the House informed about progress with the remaining inquests.