CAMPAIGNING: Terry Pears
THE father of a heroic soldier who was crushed by a tank whilst saving a colleague has joined a campaign to get legal support for bereaved families.
Terry Pears, 63, of Holstein Way, Erith, spent his life savings paying a lawyer to represent him at his son Jason's inquest. Now £12,000 in debt, he has joined forces with the Deepcut and Beyond Group that campaigns for more financial support for families whose loved ones died in non-combat deaths.
Corporal Jason Pears, of the Royal Green Jackets regiment was killed by a reversing Warrior tank in Paderborn, Germany in 2002. The 31-year-old had been living in Germany with his wife of three months, and was due to leave the service in six months.
Mr Pears told the Times: "When there is an accident, whether it is friendly fire or an accident like Jason's the Army should help the families and not expect them to fund the amount themselves." I believe a lot of people just go along with what they are told, even if it doesn't seem right, because they can't afford a lawyer to go and investigate the death."
Civil servant Mr Pears was planning to retire but has been forced to work until 2011 to clear his debt.
He said: "I don't expect to see the money back, but I was never interested in the money. I was only interested in finding out how my son died."
Solicitor William Bache QC represented the Pears family in November 2004 at the week-long inquest at Flax Bourton Coroners Court, Bristol.Coroners recorded a verdict of unlawful killing.
Mr Pears added: "It was a gross lack of health and safety training."The Deepcut and Beyond Group represent the families of over 40 soldiers killed in non-combat or unexplained circumstances.
Geoff Gray, a founding member of the group from Hackney, said: "Terry had the passion to find out what happened." If he hadn't done it the Army would have put his son would down as a drunk."
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: "The reason they don't provide automatic legal aid is because inquests are not adversarial." No one is on trial at an inquest. If a family believes they have a case they can apply to the Legal Services Commission for help. If it is accepted it is passed on to the legal aid minister."
The group is due to meet Derek Twigg, the under-secretary at the ministry of defence, on October 17 to try and get equal legal funding for families.