The Government has confirmed its response to the Better combat compensation consultation will be published in February 2018.
Under the proposals, combat immunity – which provides an exemption from legal liability for members of the armed forces and the government – would apply to all accidents and fatalities within the armed forces, so the MoD would enjoy total immunity from not only criminal prosecution as they do at the moment but also civil proceedings, even when failings occurred far from the battlefield.
It was parliament, in 1987, which gave serving members of the armed forces the right to legal redress when things go wrong. The MoD is now seeking to legislate its way out of any liability by removing this important Human Right of those who serve.
The current military pension scheme will be extended with legislation passed denying current and former members of the armed forces and their entitled family members the right to civil legal action if the government is negligent in its care.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, Tobias Ellwood, also said the Government was “making some changes” but “no firm decisions have been made”.
Hilary Meredith, Chair of Hilary Meredith Solicitors and Professor of Law and Veterans’ Affairs at the University of Chester, said:
“MPs across the political divide have wide-ranging concerns about these proposals – as do lawyers, service personnel, veterans and their families.”
Conservative MP Bob Stewart – a former Army colonel – has described new defence secretary, Gavin Williamson as a “the sort of person that will listen carefully, take advice but then make his own decision”.
Responding to this, Hilary Meredith added:
“I’m hoping the new defence secretary is taking a hands-on approach to this consultation and listening to all the concerns.
“We previously enjoyed a very reasonable relationship with decision makers within the MoD. In recent years this has declined with the MoD outsourcing its legal services. There are ways to avoid the courts without introducing a biased system where the MoD acts as judge and jury. I’m calling for a return to the open approach we used to the enjoy with the MoD with specialist counsel helping to negotiate settlements. This would ensure service personnel and veterans are properly represented but would also save on costs as the vast majority of cases would be resolved without going to court.”