In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that families of British soldiers killed in Iraq could sue the government for damages under the European Convention of Human Rights, potentially opening the door to claims running into millions of pounds.

The government said it was “concerned” about the implications of the ruling which followed a long legal battle by families of two groups of soldiers killed by roadside bombs in Iraq while travelling in armoured vehicles whose safety has been questioned. Their families argued that the Ministry of Defence did not properly equip the vehicles and give soldiers adequate training, thus failing in its duty.

More than 30 soldiers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan while travelling in lightly-armoured Snatch Land Rovers which have been dubbed “mobile coffins”.

The court rejected the MoD’s argument that the human rights legislation ceased to apply to soldiers after they left their British base. The judges ruled that the soldiers in question were very much within the British jurisdiction at the time of their deaths.