After 16 long years, Terry Jeans may finally have justice for his soldier son Simon’s death in Croatia. A Serb, Dejan Skaro, has been jailed for 18 months.
But at what price? Emotionally, his one-man crusade has clearly taken its toll. But there has been a huge financial effect too. Mr Jeans reckons his fight has cost him more than £20,000. In the process he has had to give up work and lost his home.
He has had to travel to Croatia 14 times for what were supposed to be court hearings, but on only five occasions did the hearings actually take place.
Mr Jeans’s plight highlights the financial difficulties families can face in such situations. Of those 14 trips, the Ministry of Defence paid for just one. In 2003 the then defence secretary Geoff Hoon wrote to Mr Jeans saying there would be no further financial assistance from the MoD. He was on his own.
Another trip was paid for by Simon’s regiment, the Royal Logistic Corps, while a third was funded by a combination of family members and kind-hearted readers of The News who were moved by Mr Jeans’s long fight for justice. But the other 11 had to be financed by him.
We think it is time for a debate about how far the government goes to help people like Mr Jeans. Should it do more to assist people who need to attend legal proceedings abroad? Or whose relatives have been badly injured in a foreign country?
This week we reported how professional diver Terry Dukes, whose parents live on Hayling Island, had suffered a serious head injury in Brunei and was in a critical condition.
He needed a procedure which couldn’t be carried out there, but his family couldn’t afford the cost of a repatriation flight.
Mercifully, the Sultan of Brunei is now going to pay to get Mr Dukes back to the UK this weekend after his cousin contacted the sultan to ask for his help.
But, as Mr Dukes’s family wait anxiously to see him and Mr Jeans attempts to rebuild his life, there will be those who ask why our government is not more proactive in providing assistance.