Judge rules against Basra bomb blast victim

Author: By Jan Colley, Press Association

Graham Hopps, 45, blamed his former employer, Mott Macdonald Ltd, and the
Ministry of Defence (MoD) for not supplying armoured vehicles to transport
men working on contracts in Iraq.

The father of two, from Selby Road, Whitkirk, Leeds, was injured in October
2003 when the soft-skinned Land Rover provided by the army came under attack
as it was travelling on a road known as “Bomb Alley”.

Another passenger sustained a fatal head wound and Mr Hopps’s dominant right
arm and shoulder were shattered, leaving him with little movement, as well
as hearing loss and tinnitus.

Mr Hopps, who claimed that the incident deprived him of the opportunity of
pursuing a lucrative overseas career, is now limited to work as a manager in
an office-based environment.

His counsel, Nigel Wilkinson QC, told Mr Justice Christopher Clarke that the
MoD should have recognised that the existing arrangements of soft-skinned
vehicles with top-up cover were not proper protection for those travelling
in Iraq at that time.

And, he said Mott Macdonald should have ordered an investigation into the
security situation and assessed it when the firm took on its contractual
obligations.

But the judge said he found it impossible to conclude that the likelihood was
that if Mr Hopps had been in an armoured vehicle he would probably not have
suffered the injury that he did or that his injuries would have been less
serious.

Dismissing Mr Hopps’s case, he said: “The fact that I have done so in no way
reduces the great credit due to him for the contribution which, at much
personal cost, he has made to improving the lot of the Iraqi people.”

Mr Hopps was not at London’s High Court for the ruling.

Mr Hopps had told the court in a statement: “There was a loud bang and
everything seemed to stop. I could smell cordite and was aware of extreme
pain in my right shoulder and arm.

“It appeared that my right arm was hanging off and I was very frightened.”

Even now his sleep was seriously disrupted and what happened came flooding
back if he watched the news, he said.

“Every now and again I can picture the bang and I have difficulty sitting in
the back of a car. I still have pictures in my mind of what happened and I
recall thinking that I had lost my arm and holding on to it for dear life.”

He said he had discussed the situation at length with his wife, Dawn, before
taking the Iraq job.

They had agreed that he should go for it as it would allow him to retire
early, but his earnings were now significantly less than he had received in
his previous “hands-on” role.

In his ruling in favour of the defendants, who both denied liability, the
judge said the number of attacks at the time of the incident appeared to be
increasing, but their nature and the improvised explosive devices involved –
and their consequences – did not seem such that armoured vehicles should
have been ordered for civilian contractors.

The circumstances applicable to the Coalition Provisional Authority and Army
personnel, for whom such vehicles had been provided, were different, as they
were priority targets inherently more likely to be exposed to attack than
civilian contractors seeking to reconstruct local services.

Even if, contrary to his view, a reasonable employer should have realised at
the end of September 2003 or the beginning of October that an armoured
vehicle was necessary, it was not likely that it would have arrived before
the date of the incident.

He added that he was not satisfied that the level of risk from IED attacks was
such that Mr Hopps should have been confined to the compound until an
armoured vehicle was available to transport him.

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