Jury Finds In Favour Of Family Over Aircraft Accident In Afghanistan
A Kent couple ‘devastated’ by the death of their only son when the Nimrod plane he was travelling in crashed in Afghanistan, claiming the lives of all 14 British servicemen on board, today won a record sum in their battle for justice in a Scottish court.
Mr Robert and Mrs Pricilla Dicketts whose son Oliver died aged 27 in the accident say that although grateful to have been awarded the maximum level of compensation, no amount of money could ever replace the son they have lost, or make up for the long and painful process they have been forced to endure.
Today, law firm Irwin Mitchell’s armed forces injury specialist team, who represented all 14 families at the inquest into the crash near Kandahar in 2006, as well as Mr and Mrs Dicketts throughout their civil claim, confirmed that a jury at the Court of Session in Edinburgh today awarded a total of £200,000 to the couple. £100,000 each.
Speaking after the two-day hearing, Mr Dicketts welcomed the verdict but said it by no means made up for the ‘regrettable’ behaviour of the MoD who continued to push ahead with the trial regardless of recent developments.
The criticism comes just weeks after another jury also found in favour of the mother and sister of Royal Marine Joe Windall, another victim of the Nimrod crash, who, until today, were awarded the highest level of compensation ever for a parent or sibling in a Scottish court for the loss of a loved one, winning £90,000 and £60,000 respectively.
Andrew Buckham from Irwin Mitchell said: “It is very disappointing that, despite damages having been assessed and awarded by a jury only very recently, the MoD still chose to press ahead with the trial.
“In doing so Mr and Mrs Dicketts have been forced, yet again, to very publicly relive the distressing events of the tragedy in which their son died, in order to receive the justice they have waited more than four years for.“
An inquest into the tragedy in 2008 ended with the Coroner, Andrew Walker, handing down a narrative verdict which concluded that the Nimrod had “never been airworthy from the first time it was released to the service nearly 40 years ago".
The MoD was further criticized following the independent review of the Nimrod fleet by Mr Haddon–Cave QC in 2009. The report from the review accused the MoD of sacrificing safety to cut costs and stated that the Nimrod accident occurred because of a "systemic breach" of the military covenant.
After winning his battle for justice at the Court of Session in Edinburgh today, Mr Dicketts issued this statement:
“On December 4, 2007 the then Secretary of Defence, Des Brown, stood up in front of us, the families victims, and apologised to us for what happened to Nimrod XV230. He went on to say that they accepted 100% liability, that compensation would be paid to all the families, and that he wished for it to be dealt with ‘as quickly as possible’.
“However, since that date the MoD and their lawyers have made this process as difficult as possible for all of us, causing considerable distress and anguish in their attitudes which seems to have been an attempt to get us just to accept whatever figure they proposed with no consideration for us as individuals.
“They have shown no understanding of our grief or suffering and in doing so have only served to make it worse.”
Though acknowledging that a process is needed to ensure payments are made in a correct manner, Mr Dicketts criticised the way in which the MoD communicated with him, his wife, and the families of other victims. He said: “I hope that, by making this statement, lessons will be learnt so that families who have lost loved ones in the service of their country are treated with more respect and consideration and, more importantly, as individuals by those at the MoD.
Mrs Dicketts said: “Oliver was my life, my pride, my joy and my only child. I would have given anything and everything for him to still be with us now. Robert and I allowed Oliver to become who he was, and he did what he wanted with our blessing. And for that, we are proud of our son.
“But the past four years have been heartbreaking. Having been told by the coroner that the plane was "not airworthy" has been almost too much to bear.”
Mr Dicketts added: “This has been a long painful battle at times, but we were determined to see it through. Not only for ourselves and our son, but for all those families who have lost loved ones under similar circumstances.
“No amount of money can ever bring Oliver back, but to us it was never just about the money. We wanted to make sure that the MoD sat up and paid attention to the devastating impact this whole ordeal has had on the families of the Nimrod victims and that accidents like this never happen again.
“The aftermath of this wholly avoidable incident will stay with us for the rest of our lives and having to go to court in order to get justice for Oliver had made it all the more difficult to move on.
“And so, we would like to take this opportunity to thank our team at Irwin Mitchell who have provided much support throughout our ordeal. And, in particular, we are most grateful to Andrew Buckham who has been a very solid rock on which we have been able to lean, sometimes very heavily."
Andrew Buckham said: “All families accept that their loved ones may be in danger when they go to fight for their country, but our clients were determined to bring their case to court, not because of the issue of compensation but because they feel so strongly about the way Oliver and Joe and their colleagues were put at risk and ultimately lost their lives.
“The safety of our servicemen has to be the paramount issue at all times and we hope that lessons have been learnt to ensure the same mistakes are never made again.”
He went on to applaud the Scottish system in which cases are still decided upon by a jury saying that it is fortunate that, in Scotland, people can still have their case decided by twelve of their fellow citizens applying their own judgment, experience and values to the case before them.
He said: “We believe these outcomes have now set a benchmark which will benefit many other families who have lost relatives and are seeking a just reflection of that loss.”