Justice for families in Castlemartin inquest

Hogan Lovells' litigation team has completed a complex Coroner's inquest hearing into the deaths of two British soldiers, corporals Matthew Hatfield and Darren Paul Neilson, who died in a fatal tank explosion at Castlemartin Range, Pembrokeshire. Our team acted for corporal Hatfield's fiancée, Jill McBride, and his wife, Abi Hatfield, on a pro bono basis.

In her decision, senior coroner Louise Hunt said: 'The main cause of this incident was the tank being able to fire without the BVA assembly being present. During production and manufacture of the gun, this hazard was not adequately considered or investigated and therefore the ability of the gun to fire without the BVA present went undetected.'

The Coroner also concluded that there were other contributing factors, including a lack of clear army procedure when handling the BVA and passing on tanks to new crews. 

Family members and colleagues of the two men also gave evidence, describing them as "superb" soldiers. Corporal Hatfield was described as "truly dedicated to the British Army". He had been in operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere during his career. 

The Coroner issued three specific recommendations to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in order to prevent similar incidents happening again. 

Hatfield’s fiancée, Jill McBride, speaking on behalf of herself and Abi Hatfield, said: 'A weight has been lifted. It was important to us to make sure the reputation of both Matthew and Darren was protected and remained true.' 

London litigation partner Michael Davison, who represented both women on a pro bono basis, said: 'Through working with the Royal British Legion, we represent those who would otherwise have to defend the reputations of their relatives on their own. These men and women were lost in the service of their country. The Government and corporations have large legal teams at their disposal: we simply try to level the field for the families.'

Hogan Lovells has a longstanding program with the Royal British Legion, through which we represent, on a pro bono basis, members of the military that have been injured or killed in service, and their families.

A representative from the Inquest Advice Service at the Royal British Legion said: 'The Royal British Legion, which is dedicated to supporting individual service men and women and their families, values very much the generous support provided so willingly by the firm.'


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