'But for the brilliance of a sniffer dog and his handler, I'd have been dead' - MP welcomes end to troop investigations

PUBLISHED: 11:00 18 October 2016

Wells MP James Heappey.

Wells MP James Heappey.

Archant

Soldiers who make incorrect decisions while under 'intense pressure' should not fear prosecution says a Somerset MP, who experienced those 'extraordinary circumstances' firsthand.

Wells MP James Heappey served in Iraq and Afghanistan during his time in the Army from 2003-2012.

In recent months, some troops have been subject to legal enquiries under the Human Rights Act about their actions overseas, in what Defence Minister Michael Fallon described as a ‘witch hunt’.

Mr Heappey said if those investigations happened while he was serving, it would have played on his mind.

He was serving in Kabul, Afghanistan, 11 years ago, when two suicide bombs killed soldiers and civilians,

Mr Heappey said: “But for the brilliance of a sniffer dog and his handler, I’d have been dead as well because the Taliban were in the crowd placing secondary devices a distance from the original explosions.”

While the scene was being secured, a car sped towards them, and Mr Heappey’s troops opened fire.

He said: “Our perception of the threat was sky-high – this was already a well co-ordinated, complex attack.

“Yet it turned out that the people in that car weren’t bombers at all. They were high on drugs, they panicked when they saw all the police and military, but they were not the Taliban.

“In the cold light of day, we killed some innocent civilians that afternoon in Kabul.”

Mr Heappey said in the context of their training and the previous attack, the threat was seen to be ‘real, immediate and lethal’.

Mr Fallon has announced the investigations will end, and Mr Heappey said it was a ‘victory for common sense’.

He said the legal cases would have ‘primed soldiers to hesitate’, even when commanding officers said troops were empowered to act as they saw fit.

He said: “Even after that preparation, some of the decisions made in the most extraordinary circumstances, under intense pressure and never with all the information you’d want available, will later prove to have been incorrect.”

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