THE parents of teenager left with severe brain damage after complications during birth have won the right to bring a claim for compensation.

Harry Roberts, from Sutton, has cerebral palsy and quadriplegia after he was deprived of oxygen at birth.

A senior judge at the High Court has now ruled a compensation claim could be lodged on his behalf against the Ministry of Defence and Soldiers, Sailors & Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) after a long-running legal battle.

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Harry was delivered in June 2000 at a hospital in Viersen, Germany, where his parents were based while his dad Eddie Roberts was serving overseas with the British Army.

During the labour, Harry’s mum Lauren Roberts was under the care of a British qualified midwife, employed by armed forces charity the SSAFA, who was trained and regulated to UK Midwifery standards.

The family filed a negligence claim in 2004 against the MoD and SSAFA, alleging that the midwife was negligent in her actions.

This includes, but is not limited to, a significant delay in seeking urgent assistance from doctors, resulting in no effective fetal monitoring of Harry’s heartbeat.

Harry’s brain was starved of oxygen causing an irreversible brain injury. Now 19, he requires round the clock care, uses a wheelchair and communicates through an advanced computer which he operates through eye movement.

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Harry’s family have been in a 17 year battle for the right to bring the compensation claim.

The MoD and SSAFA argued that because he was born in Germany, German Law, which states claims must be brought within three years of the claimant becoming aware of problems, applies.

Therefore, because Lauren and Eddie brought the claims in 2004, the SSAFA and MoD argued that time had run out.

But after the lengthy battle, Justice Alison Foster, a senior judge at London’s High Court, ruled following a four day trial that the claim had been brought within the time limit because the family were only made aware of the details in 2003.

This means the Roberts family can lodge a compensation claim to support Harry’s current and future care needs.

Harry’s parents Lauren and Eddie say they are “relieved” by the ruling, but “can’t fail to feel let down and treated like a statistic by the MoD”.

Mum-of-two Lauren, who works for North West Borough Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “I had a normal pregnancy with Harry, in fact until the labour everything was fine, but just because we got on with our lives does not mean it hasn’t affected us.

“For Harry, his cerebral palsy has affected his entire body and because of constantly sitting he has had to have a double hip replacement and has to have a spinal operation in the future too. This has affected his entire life.

“He is a happy boy who loves Saints and loves going to see bands like Rudimental, but that does not mean he can manage. He needs specific care and adaptations.

“Our home is adapted with widened doors and he has special chairs and wheelchairs, and he communicates through a magnetic speech aid and points with his eyes.

“But he’s also a young man and after he heals from these operations, we want him to have anything he needs to live his life to the fullest; be that care, an adapted home or whatever he might need.

“It was easier when he was little, but now he’s a young man we have to get hoists to lift him.

“It affects our lives too, if we didn’t have the help of my parents who care for Harry even in their 80s and carers who we have only just started using, then one of us wouldn’t be able to work.

“We even struggle to do things together as a family, something simple like going out or booking a holiday isn’t easy.

“Very often only one of us goes away with our daughter and the other stays here with Harry.

“We just wanted to be treated fairly, so what really gets us down is despite the fact that between us we have served 43 years in the armed forces for our country they’ve not supported our family.

“They thought if they kept delaying, that we would give up, but we didn’t and we never will because Harry deserves more.

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"We are now hoping the MoD will engage with us and treat us as a family and not just a statistic because there is still a young man at the centre of this and this issue is still unresolved."

Eddie, 51, who still serves in the Army Commercial Radio Team, added: “I can’t help but feel let down and like Harry’s case has been treated like a statistic by the MoD.

“We served our country, I still am doing, but it’s taken close to 20 years now for them to accept that they need to make this right for Harry’s sake.

“This isn’t a win yet, but we are relieved to be told we can move forward with it as a family for Harry’s sake.”

The family’s lawyer, David Thomas said: “The parents have fought tirelessly over the past 20 years to ensure that Harry was treated fairly and not denied the right to compensation simply because he was born in a German Hospital while his father loyally served his country overseas.

“Harry is now aged 19 and his parents remain resolute as ever to ensure that he has the care he needs.

“They have endured a long and stressful battle for justice in which every possible obstacle and delay tactics have been put in their way.

“They now look forward to engaging with the MoD and SSAFA to bring this long and protracted case to its conclusion.

“Mr and Mrs Roberts can take comfort in the fact that their perseverance in the pursuit of justice may help others in a similar situation to Harry, if they can prove, as they did, that the operation of foreign limitation periods would result in undue hardship.

Lady Justice Foster, DBE paid special tribute to Mr and Mrs Roberts when she remarked: "I must recognise the dignity and grace with which both parents gave evidence concerning these deeply traumatic events.

"There was no murmur of complaint or dissatisfaction from either.

"They displayed what appears to me to have been extraordinary resolve and resilience throughout the hearing and, indeed, have done so since these events happened now almost 20 years ago.”