Leeds bomb victim's legal battle with MoD

AN ENGINEER from Leeds who lost his shoulder in a roadside bomb blast in Basra is to fight a landmark court action against the Ministry of Defence.

Graham Hopps, 45, from Halton, was a contractor working on a power station construction project in Iraq when his Land Rover was blasted on a route which was 'unapproved'.

The father-of-two also claims he was only given a civilian vehicle while visiting dignitaries were given the protection of armoured cars.

Mr Hopps suffered horrific injuries in the incident in 2003.

He lost his right shoulder and suffered 136 fractures in his right arm.

An Iraqi engineer who was sitting next to him was killed.

Mr Hopps will next week take his case against the MOD and international engineering firm, Mott MacDonald, to the Royal Courts of Justice.

The landmark case, if lost by the MoD, could have wider implications for other civilian and military personnel injured while travelling in unarmoured cars.

Mr Hopps said: "There were reports of roadside bombs going off in the area at the time.

"In some kind of fatal lottery, my employers and the MoD took unnecessary risks by deciding that others, not me, would get the protection.

"Immediately after I was injured Mott MacDonald sought armoured vehicles for their personnel from the private sector."

Six years on Mr Hopps is still affected by his injuries and will never be able to return to the job he loved.

Now self employed, he said: "My arm could not be rebuilt – there was too much missing. I used to love my job and now I am stuck in an office.

"For me this case isn't about money. It's about the fact that I have never had an apology from Mott MacDonald.

"I was sent away with insurance cover that was an absolute waste of time. After working hard for them for three years, I didn't even

receive so much as a phone call from them after this happened."

Mr Hopps spent eight weeks in three separate hospitals, first in Basra, then Birmingham and finally at St James's in Leeds.

He was then told by Mott MacDonald that his six-month contract would not be honoured and his injuries were not covered by employers' liability insurance.

Mr Hopps claims he had to travel in the Land Rover Discovery because it was allocated to him by his employers.

The vehicle was sourced from the British Army in Basra, despite the MOD having armoured vehicles available.

Mr Hopps' lawyers are accusing the MoD of 'taking unnecessary risks' by leaving him inadequately protected while giving visiting dignitaries and civil servants armoured vehicles and military escorts through dangerous zones of the city.

It is also claimed he was travelling on an 'unapproved' route when the bomb went off.

Routes were supposed to be checked by the military in advance of a journey.

But Mr Hopps says that the route chosen that day – to drop off an Iraqi engineer close to his home – had not been verified as safe.

Matt Brown , of Irwin Mitchell solicitors, who are representing Mr Hopps, said: "Not only was the MoD short-changing personnel in dangerous areas of a war-torn country, it seemed to be picking and choosing who received the best protection.

"Both Mott MacDonald and the MoD knew the security situation was deteriorating in the summer before the incident and there was a considerable level of danger from roadside bombs.

"Mott MacDonald owed a duty of care to Mr Hopps, as his employers, but they have blamed the MOD throughout for not doing enough to protect him.

"In fact, other civilian employers were moving their staff about in armoured vehicles with private bodyguards.

"So why did they not give Mr Hopps the same treatment? The resulting serious, permanent injuries were completely avoidable and have changed his life."

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