A lawyer who regularly gives evidence to Defence Committee Inquiries says the Chilcot Report needs to usher in a new culture of responsibility within the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Philippa Tuckman, military negligence expert and partner at Hilary Meredith Solicitors, appeared before the Committee in the Inquiry which recommended the MoD should be stripped of its historical immunity from prosecution when personnel are killed during training. She also gave evidence the Inquiry which recently recommended the end of the use of anti-malaria drug Lariam for our armed forces.
Commenting on the suggestion that individual soldiers could face prosecution for war crimes, she warned that while genuine offences should be fairly investigated, those with responsibility for the welfare of service men and women must be vigilant to ensure that the MoD both supported them and took responsibility for its own failings.
She said: “This must include not only ensuring the accused have legal and welfare support during any proceedings, but also proactively giving full disclosure of MoD materials including training manuals, videos and procedures.
“The MoD’s track record in caring for service men and women on and off the battlefield leads me to think that Parliament and representatives will need to keep a close watch on this.
“I have seen hundreds of examples of this lack of care in theatre and on return home in every area of the lives of service men and women since 2003. The evidence before Chilcot of hurried and badly thought out deployments to deal with the reported threat of the weapons of mass destruction only confirms what I have learned from veterans I have spoken to.
“I have also spoken to many, many soldiers with PTSD from Iraq whose condition has been made catastrophically worse by serial failings in the military mental health system.
“None of this could have happened if the MoD had had the welfare of service men and women, including realistic, practical plans for how to deliver supplies, training and care, at the front of their minds where it should have been.
“Over the past year the Defence Committee has done excellent work in scrutinising the MoD’s exercise of its duty of care towards members of our Army, Navy and RAF, and the public interest in its work shows that the public cares passionately about this.
“The revelations in the Chilcot Report can – and need to – be seen in the context of this need for openness. They can help to create a new culture of responsibility within the Ministry of Defence. British soldiers were sent to war ill prepared and in a hurry and they suffered catastrophic consequences from that lack of planning for a cause they believed in. Their trust was betrayed. It is a well-established legal principle that the MoD owes our troops a duty of care – but in Iraq there were widespread failings.
“The Chilcot Inquiry has dragged on longer than the war itself. It is now time for the MoD to face up to its responsibilities, act accordingly and regain the respect of our armed forces.”