A former soldier from Kidderminster who developed post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Northern Ireland and Bosnia has lost his battle for damages.
Stephen Hibbert, now 40, had sued the Ministry of Defence for “substantial” compensation in a contested action at the High Court in London over an alleged failure to diagnose his condition in the early 1990s until it was too late to treat.
But yesterday Mr Justice Owen, the judge who heard the case, dismissed his claim and said: “One cannot but have the greatest sympathy for the claimant who loyally served his country, earning respect for his determination, enthusiasm and leadership on operational tours of duty in Northern Ireland and Bosnia.
“He is now suffering from a severely disabling psychiatric condition for which the prognosis is very poor. But sadly he is the victim of the stresses to which serving soldiers on operational tours of duty can be exposed, not to any culpable want of care on the part of the defendant (MoD). His claim must be dismissed.”
During a hearing in May, his QC Guy Mansfield told the judge that the once “thrusting and successful” soldier, who had wanted to make the Army his lifelong career, was “exposed to two incidents - what the doctors call stressors”.
The first “major incident” was a mortar attack at Strabane in Northern Ireland in 1990 and the second was a series of horrific experiences in part of the former Republic of Yugoslavia.
Mr Mansfield said they occurred in 1992 and 1993 when he was a member of the United Nations peacekeeping force while serving on attachment with the Cheshire Regiment.
Mr Hibbert’s case was that in May 1994 an Army consultant psychiatrist failed to diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder. His condition deteriorated and became “entrenched”, said Mr Mansfield, so that by the time he was diagnosed in the autumn of 1996 he was “beyond treatment”.
It was argued on behalf of Mr Hibbert, who joined the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters aged 16 and was later promoted to lance corporal, that if he had been diagnosed earlier he would have had “a more than probable prospect of making sufficient recovery to remain in the Army”.
But the judge ruled that Mr Hibbert “has not proved that he was suffering from PTSD” when he was seen by the consultant on May 12 1994.