Skip to main content

Inquests (Service Personnel Overseas)

Volume 527: debated on Thursday 12 May 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 wish to express the Government’s deep sense of gratitude to all our service personnel who are serving, or who have served, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As always, the families of those service personnel who have lost their lives in the service of their country in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are very much in our thoughts. Our deepest condolences go to them, and in particular to the families of the 14 service personnel who have died since our last statement.

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 5 May.

I have placed tables in the Libraries of both Houses to supplement this statement. The tables outline the status of all cases and the date of death in each case. They include information about cases where a board of inquiry or a service inquiry has been held.

Both our Departments will continue to work closely together to improve our processes and we will continue the Government’s support for coroners conducting inquests into operational deaths. We are grateful to them and their staff for their dedication. We would also like to thank once again all those people who provide support and information before, during and after the inquest process.

Since October 2007 both Departments have provided additional resources 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. On 16 March my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence announced in a written ministerial statement (Official Report, column 11WS) that repatriation ceremonies for those killed in operational theatres will move to RAF Brize Norton, in the Oxfordshire coroner’s district, by 1 September. We will again provide additional resources to the Oxfordshire coroner Mr Nicholas Gardiner.

Current status of inquests

Since the last statement there have been 17 inquests into the deaths of service personnel on operations in Iraq or Afghanistan.

A total of 453 inquests have been held into the deaths of service personnel who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, including 12 service personnel who died in the UK of their injuries. In three further cases, no formal inquest was held. In two of these cases 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 88 open inquests to be concluded into the deaths of service personnel who died in Iraq and Afghanistan, 21 involving deaths in the last six months. The Wiltshire and Swindon coroner has retained 37 of the remaining open inquests, while 39 are being conducted by coroners closer to the next of kin. Hearing dates have been set in 16 cases.

There is one remaining open inquest into deaths from operations in Iraq.

Inquests into the deaths of service personnel who returned home injured

Twelve inquests remain to be held of service personnel who returned home injured and subsequently died of their injuries. One hearing date has been set. The remaining 11 cases will be listed for hearing when the continuing investigations are completed.

We shall continue to inform the House of progress with the remaining inquests.