Black Soldiers Win Compensation from Ministry of Defence After Suffering Cold Injuries

Harvey Day, Daily Mail, April 17, 2016

A black former soldier is suing the Ministry of Defence for injuries sustained during winter training when he claims his hands were exposed to freezing temperatures.

Abdoulie Bojang, 30, was training in Banff, Canada, and is seeking £200,000 after he says his hands were exposed to temperatures of -30C.

He claims the army ‘failed to take into account his ethnicity’ during the training exercises, according to the Sunday Times.

A spokesman for solicitors Bolt Burdon Kemp said: ‘Service personnel of African and Afro-Caribbean descent, including those of mixed race, are particularly vulnerable in low temperatures.’

According to one lawyer at Irwin Mitchell at least 450 Commonwealth soldiers have suffered cold injuries in the past decade.

The ex-soldier, originally from Gambia who now lives in Warwickshire, was medically discharged from the army in September last year.

Bojang, who served with the Royal Logistic Corps, has lodged a claim in the High Court via his barrister Christopher Barnes.

In the soldier’s claim about the 2014 exercise in the Rocky Mountains, it says: ‘During the afternoon he noticed that his feet were numb as were both of his hands.

‘He made his way to the resort lodge to warm his hands and saw that they had changed colour.’

A spokesperson for Bolt Burdon Kemp added: ‘The MoD has acknowledged research indicating that these groups are 30 times more likely to contract an NFCI (non-freezing cold injury) than Caucasian service personnel.

‘Even mild injuries can leave long-term effects such as problems regulating body temperature.

‘The damage to a military career and the prolonged pain can even result in depression.

‘Many of our clients have problems with day-to-day living because their hands have been affected so that their manual dexterity is reduced.

‘Personnel from the Commonwealth will often find that, following a cold injury, they are restricted to working in warm climates.

‘This means they can no longer follow any plans they may have made to make a life in the UK, Europe or North America.’

A non-freezing cold injury comes about when the core temperature of the body remains below its natural level for a long period of time.

When someone’s core temperature falls too low the blood vessels constrict, thereby reducing blood flow to hands and feet.

This has the effect of reducing the amount of oxygen transported to those extremities.

This is harmful even though body tissue does not freeze.

If there is no immediate treatment nerve and blood vessel damage can occur, sometimes causing permanent injury.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence said: ‘When compensation claims are submitted, they are considered on the basis of whether or not the Ministry of Defence has a legal liability to pay compensation.

‘Where there is a legal liability to pay compensation, we do so.’

Last year a parliamentary select committee chaired by MP Madeleine Moon heard that hundreds of military personnel are injured every year because the MoD fails to follow its own safety rules.

Lawyers representing injured service men and women told the Defence Select Committee that the armed forces fail to learn from past mistakes resulting results in the death and injury of soldiers every year.

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