Wednesday, November 07, 2007

British Soldier Gordon Gentle Iraq death ruled unlawful

Soldier Gordon Gentle Iraq death ruled unlawful
Wed Nov 7, 2007 2:47pm GMT

LONDON (Reuters) - An inquest into the death of a British soldier in Iraq concluded on Wednesday that his killing was unlawful and the result of communications failures within the military.

Gordon Gentle, 19, was killed in June 2004 when his Land Rover was hit by a roadside bomb near Basra. He had been sent to Iraq 10 days after ending training.

His mother, Rose Gentle, waged a three-year campaign for a full inquest into the incident, arguing that a failure to supply her son with the correct equipment had led to his death.

At the end of the eight-day inquest, coroner Selena Lynch found that Gentle's death might have been prevented but for a series of miscommunications and logistics errors by the Ministry of Defence.

"He died as a result of injuries caused by the explosion and was unlawfully killed," Lynch said in her verdict.

"It is probable that the device would not have been detonated if the escort had been equipped with an ECM," she said, referring to Electronic Counter Measures, which the military uses to detect bombs.

The necessary equipment had arrived in Iraq in mid-June and should have been available to Gentle's unit at least a week before his death, but a clerical error with the military logistics unit meant it wasn't distributed.

"Effective action to recognise and rectify the error was not taken by the units responsible for storage, issue and fitting and efforts taken by Fusilier Gentle's unit to obtain (the ECM) were not sufficient to alert them to its availability.

"These errors were exacerbated by a lack of robust tracking and back-up systems," the coroner ruled.

Speaking immediately afterwards, Rose Gentle said she felt vindicated by the coroner's findings and said the Ministry of Defence bore responsibility "from top to bottom".

"I'm proud of Gordon but I am disgusted at the way he was treated," she told BBC television.

"They say when you join the army, it's a brilliant career. At the same time you should be looked after. They should never be sent out without the right equipment.

"The responsibility's from chain-of-command right down to the bottom -- from top to bottom. The equipment was there. Why didn't they communicate with one another to take it up?"

She also joined the coroner in criticising the difficulty and time it had taken to convene an inquest, obstacles that the coroner blamed on the Ministry.

"The MoD have a policy of disclosure that I would argue is both illogical and based on faulty points of law," Lynch said.

In a statement, the Ministry of Defence said it regretted the events that had led to Gentle's death.

"Our thoughts and sympathies remain with the family," a spokesman said.

"We were immensely saddened at (Gentle's) loss through an attack by insurgents in Basra in June 2004 and we deeply regret the series of events that contributed to it."

(Reporting by Luke Baker)

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"Dear Mrs.Blair" (a short film by Camcorder Guerillas with music by Belle and Sebastian) A video letter to Cherie Blair from Glaswegian mother Rose Gentle, whose son Gordon was killed in Iraq on 28 June 2004. Gordon was 19 years old; he'd joined the Army just six months earlier at his local Job Centre. Thursday 23rd of December 2004 would have been his 20th birthday.

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