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No5's Adam Farrer acts for MoD at second inquest into death of private Jason Smith

In September 2013, Adam Farrer from No5 acted for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) at the second inquest into the death of private Jason Smith, who died in Iraq of heatstroke on 13 August 2003. The inquest was heard by Alison Thompson, assistant coroner for Oxford, and lasted five days.

The inquest was originally heard by assistant deputy coroner Andrew Walker in November 2006. Following the conclusion of the first inquest, lawyers for the family of Smith challenged the findings of the coroner. The original inquest was quashed on the basis that the inquest should have conformed to the article 2 ECHR procedural requirement in relation to the nature of the investigation into the death. There were also issues over disclosure and redactions to documents. The High Court challenge to the original inquest was concluded in the Supreme Court in June 2010 when it was held that soldiers operating on foreign soil outside a UK base did not fall within article 1 ECHR.  

The second inquest heard that Smith, a 32-year-old Territorial Army soldier, had been based at a former athletics stadium at Al Amarah for more than six weeks. The conditions at the stadium were very harsh, with no running water or mains power. By August 2003, the temperature frequently exceeded 50ºC. On 13 August 2003, Smith had been on duty controlling fuel distribution for the local population. In the afternoon he was stood down and returned to the stadium to rest. However, about three hours later he was found collapsed. He was taken to the field hospital. However, he died as a result of multiple organ failure caused by heatstroke.  

The inquest heard from 13 witnesses, including medical experts and experts on heat injury. The inquest also heard of changes the army has made over the last 10 years to the training, mobilisation and integration of reserve soldiers and improvements to equipment, such as uniform and the provision of air-conditioned armoured vehicles.

The coroner returned a narrative conclusion, concluding that Smith died while on active service overseas, involving a high tempo of operations in extreme temperatures.

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