The mother of a Hawick soldier who died from heatstroke in Iraq 10 years ago has welcomed the opening of a new inquest into his death.
The fresh coroner’s inquest into the tragic death of Private Jason Smith was opened on Tuesday in Oxford and is expected to last five days.
Speaking ahead of it, his mother Catherine said: “Jason knew he could die on active service and I accept this.
“But I found out at the original inquest that simple steps could have been taken, like providing air conditioning units which were available 12km away but weren’t taken and this put his life at risk unnecessarily.
“Every day the soldiers were asking for air conditioning but they were ignored.
“I hope this new inquest will finally be an opportunity to get the answers I was denied in the original inquest, and will ensure the failings which led to my son’s death will be remedied so that similar tragedies can be avoided in future.”
The new inquest follows the previous coroner agreeing that he had been wrong to proceed with the first inquest in 2006 when it was discovered the Ministry of Defence had not disclosed vital information regarding the 32-year-old’s death.
Private Smith, based with the Terrptorial Army in Galashiels, died while serving with the KOSB in Iraq at a time when temperatures were rising above 50 degrees centigrade.
The first inquest found that Private Smith’s death was caused by a “serious failure” on the part of the British Army in not recognising the difficulty he was having adjusting to the climate.
It became apparent that insufficient attention was given to the fitness of recruits from the TA prior to deployment, the information card carried by soldiers in Iraq advising them of the amount of fluid they should be drinking was designed for use in temperatures in the UK, and insufficient medical treatment was given to soldiers with suspected heat-related illness.
Clair Hilder, a civil liberties solicitor at Hodge Jones & Allen, is representing Catherine Smith. She said: “It is vital that the inquest looks at not just what happened to Jason but also whether in the 10 years since Jason’s death procedures have been put in place to properly protect soldiers from the effects of the heat. This is particularly important given further recent fatalities.”