The Ministry of Defence has been ordered to pay out over £700,000 after its hearing protection equipment was found to be inadequate, leading to the former Royal Marine James Barry suffering hearing loss. James Barry received £713,716 compensation for his case.
A former Royal Marine has won £700,000 in compensation after his hearing was ruined by inadequate Ministry of Defence (MoD) earplugs.
Former soldier James Barry, 34, was awarded a £713,716 payout at the High Court.
Mr. Justice Johnson slammed the MoD for its “lamentable” failure to address problems with the kit that was “inadequate and incompatible with other equipment”.
In 2013, Mr. Barry joined the Marines with the goal of eventually joining the Special Boat Service. Unfortunately, his plans were derailed by an ear injury he sustained during live fire exercises causing hearing loss and chronic tinnitus.
The former commando stayed with the service for four years before he was medically discharged in 2017. He now works as a lorry driver.
He was provided with ear protection in the form of “yellow foamies,” as well as over-the-ear defenders.
In his testimony, Mr. Barry stated that MoD chose to provide foamies as ear protection since they were light and flexible. However, these weren’t suitable for the conditions in which they were used.
Subsequently, the MoD accepted their primary liability but suggested that Mr. Barry was partly responsible for his condition due to insufficient usage of provided earplugs.
Mr. Justice Johnson disagreed and said: “The MoD has not established that it was Mr. Barry’s fault that the earplugs fell out.
“Mr. Barry was far from alone in finding that his earplugs fell out.
“Hearing protection was available, it was just that it was inadequate and incompatible with other equipment.
“Lamentably, it appears that nothing was done by the MoD to address the obvious and serious problem.”
Mr. Barry said that not enough reference was made to wearing ear protection on the range when there were recruits present because “the main focus was on lads not shooting each other”.
He also said the training – including night manoeuvres and surprise attacks – made it impractical for rookie marines to be wearing their earplugs when a mock gun battle began. In one incident in California in 2014, one set of plugs even fell out during a mock gun battle.
Further problems arose in the form of a helmet that did not fit properly when used with heavier air defenders, and a radio that sounded muffled, meaning dummies could only be used in one ear at a time.
Using a standard infantry SA80 assault rifle is reported to create up to 156 decibels of noise and even 135 decibels can cause “physical pain.”
In 2015, Mr. Barry was stationed in California and then Norway, where he took part in training exercises. This exposed the former marine to loud sounds like loud gunfire and the sound of jets overhead.
During training, the dummies would often fall out, exposing him to loud noises. He then started to notice signs of tinnitus soon after training in the USA.
Mr. Barry said he went into the services with “perfect” hearing but now has to live with high-frequency hearing loss and moderate tinnitus.
Of the total sum, £600,000 was awarded for the loss of future earnings and pension, after finding there was a good chance he would have joined the SBS.
Further damages included payments for pain, loss of amenities and to pay for hearing aids.
Mr. Justice Johnson added: “There are obvious differences between service in the military and civilian employment.
The former inculcate strong feelings of loyalty to the unit, colleagues and country that are not readily replicated in other contexts.
“It is to the enormous credit of Mr. Barry and his step-father that, until very recently, he has been in continuous employment since his military discharge and has thereby been able to continue to provide for and support his family.
“He gains little satisfaction from his employment. By contrast, he found military life exciting, fulfilling, and rewarding.”
If you or someone you know has had their hearing affected while in the Armed Forces, we can help. It’s easy to start a claim – all you have to do is get in touch with us and we’ll provide a free private medical to assess the damage that has been done. Email us, or visit our contact page here!