Support our Heroes, Mr Hammond

In the Commons this week Defence Secretary Philip Hammond Philip Hammond announced that he is worried by the ‘encroachment of judicial processes’ on the battlefield.

I’m worried that he thinks he has any right to interfere in our country’s essential judicial processes.

There is a stark difference between Human Rights on the Battlefield and the fundamental right of soldiers to bring the Crown, its employer, to account, should they suffer injury, or worse, death, because of the negligence of their employer, the MOD, it’s servants or agents. The Armed Forces ‘Compensation’ Scheme (it’s not compensation; rather it’s a non-contributory employers death and ill health scheme) merely adds to the mass confusion amongst the Press, public, the armed services and MPs alike.

Our military is not immune to the laws of the land but of course we know that because of the furore of Human Rights claims brought on behalf of foreign non-combatants against our troops and which are funded by legal aid – taxpayers money! It is conceivable that these claims could cause operational concerns for commanders but surely the way to deter such cases is simple. Ban UK legal aid for non-UK residents and tax payers and put an end to such nonsense.

And yet legal claims by our injured troops are down year on year according to the MODs own claim statistics for 2012/13 and amounts to a very small fraction of the annual Defence budget. Is it not the duty of our highly respected legal system to examine those cases, thus encouraging a prevention culture? This is 2014, not 1914. We must give our troops the very best equipment, weapons, ammunition, vehicles and communications. Our troops continue to give their lives for us. So, Mr Hammond, do not remove their hard earned rights of legal redress when things go wrong. To do so would be a huge slap in the face to our Heroes.

Grant Evatt
Partner