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Caroline Dinenage - Ministry of Justice

My Honourable friend, the Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans, and I wish to make the last in our series of quarterly joint statements on the progress of coroner investigations into the deaths of UK service personnel who have died on active service overseas. As in all of our statements, we wish to express our continuing gratitude to all those members of the Armed Forces who have served or are now serving overseas for their bravery, professionalism, and commitment to service. Our thoughts are especially with the families and loved ones of those who have given their lives in this service.

This statement provides information on the inquests conducted by the Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and Swindon, and other coroner areas in England and Wales as at 13 April 2016.

Additional, supplemental, tables have also been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, which give the status and details of all current and previous cases, including whether there has been or will be a Service Inquiry (formerly known as a Board of Inquiry).

The Ministry of Defences Defence Inquests Unit continues to work with coroners (including the cadre of coroners specially trained to conduct investigations and inquests into the deaths of service personnel), with the aim of ensuring that investigations are thorough and that inquests are timely and effective. Under section 12 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 investigations may now be held in Scotland, where appropriate.

Since 2007 our two departments have provided funding for the additional resources required by the Oxfordshire and Wiltshire and Swindon coroner services, as service personnel who have lost their lives overseas have been repatriated to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire and RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. Coroners have thus been able to conduct investigations into these deaths as well as their local caseload.

We are sincerely grateful to all to those who support and assist bereaved families during this process, particularly coroners and their staff who unfailingly conduct their investigations with families at their heart, and the Chief Coroner who continues to provide leadership and oversight of coroner services.

Current status of inquests

Since our previous statement on 10 September last year, the inquests into the deaths of the five servicemen who died in the Lynx helicopter crash on 26 April 2014 have been held by the Oxfordshire Coroner. A total of 629 inquests have therefore now been held into the deaths of service personnel on active service in Iraq or Afghanistan, or who have died in the UK from injuries sustained while on active service. There are three cases where the death of an injured serviceman did not lead to a formal inquest, although two of these were taken into consideration at inquests into other deaths that occurred in the same incidents. The third death was of a serviceman in Scotland who made a partial recovery but later died from his injuries, and a Fatal Accident Inquiry was not held.

Coroners investigations which remain open

As at 13 April 2016, there remain only two open coroner investigations into the deaths of service personnel in Afghanistan. The first relates to the death of Lance Corporal James Brynin on 13 October 2013. The Senior Coroner for West Sussex opened the inquest on 10 March 2016, and subsequently adjourned the hearing pending a police investigation into the death. The Coroner hopes to reconvene the hearing in September this year. The second is that of the death of Sapper Adam Moralee on 5 March 2014. This death is currently subject to a police investigation, and it is not known when this investigation and any subsequent action may be concluded.

An investigation is also open into the death of Private Jamie Sawyer who died while serving on the UN peacekeeping mission in Cyprus. The Senior Coroner for Birmingham is currently responsible for the investigation of the death, which is on hold while a prosecution takes place in Cyprus.

With the exception of the two inquests mentioned above, which are not expected to be completed for some time, all operational inquests relating to Iraq and Afghanistan have now been completed, and this will therefore be the last of our series of statements on this topic. Our sympathy and condolences go out to the families and friends of Lance Corporal Brynin and Sapper Moralee, and we mean no disrespect to their memory in taking the decision not to provide further updates.

 


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