No long delays for inquests

FAMILIES of Royal Anglian soldiers killed in Afghanistan have been told they will not face long delays in waiting for inquests to be held into the deaths of their loved ones.

FAMILIES of Royal Anglian soldiers killed in Afghanistan have been told they will not face long delays in waiting for inquests to be held into the deaths of their loved ones.

Since the escalation of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the subsequent increase in combat casualties, there have been delays in holding inquests, in some cases as long as three years.

But the Ministry of Justice now says any backlog is being reduced and measures are being put in place to cut waiting times further.

However the inquest into the death of Ipswich teenager Aaron McClure is still likely to be held on the other side of the country because he died alongside two other soldiers.

But the inquest should happen quicker after the coroner was given more resources to speed the inquiry.

Some of the hearings will now be heard close to where families live rather than in Oxfordshire and Wiltshire near RAF Lyneham and RAF Brize Norton where the bodies of military personnel killed in action are repatriated.

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The 1st battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment suffered nine deaths during the conflict in Afghanistan this summer.

The first inquest, into the death of Lance Corporal George Davey from Beccles, who died on May 20, is scheduled for today in Lowestoft and will be heard by Greater Suffolk coroner Dr Peter Dean.

The Ministry of Justice said inquests would be moved from Oxfordshire or Wiltshire to closer to where the families lived, apart from controversial cases or where there had been multiple deaths.

It is understood that the inquests into the deaths of three Royal Anglians killed in a friendly-fire tragedy on August 23 - Private Aaron McClure, from Ipswich, Pte John Thrumble, from Mayland, and Pte Robert Foster, of Harlow - will still be heard by Wiltshire coroner David Masters, as will the hearing into the death of Capt David Hicks.

The Ministry of Justice also stressed some inquests could be delayed while evidence was gathered or because there was a separate MoD board of inquiry into an incident, which takes additional time.

A ministry spokesman said the latest quarterly statement to Parliament on the progress of military inquests showed the original backlog of inquests handled by the Oxfordshire coroner had reduced from 86 to two.

He said: “To ensure that a backlog of inquests does not develop in Wiltshire, the government agreed earlier this month to give coroner David Masters additional resources in the form of an additional deputy coroner, a coroner's officer and administrative support.”

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