The Defence Committee has today published its Ninth Special Report of Session 2016–17, Who guards the guardians? MoD support for former and serving personnel: Government Response to the Committee’s Sixth Report (HC 1149).
The report is damning in its criticism of the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) saying it has cost the taxpayer £60 million and not a single conviction has been made. It accepts submissions made by Hilary Meredith Solicitors that the lives of soldiers have been put on hold because of allegations made against them – in many cases without any credible supporting evidence. The report adds that the effects of this on the British military are “profound and enduring”.
The report makes it clear that the MoD cannot claim that it has been a victim of the industry; nor can it claim that it had no way of foreseeing the creation of this industry. It states that the MoD must take responsibility for creating an environment in which the generation of cases – with little or no supporting evidence – was able to occur.
Hilary Meredith Solicitors has long campaigned for the MoD to provide a framework of support for servicemen and women facing judicial process.
Hilary Meredith has been instructed by clients subject to judicial process and had started the process of bringing a Judicial Review against the MoD over the issue. The firm had also met with the Government legal department.
As has been widely reported, Ms Meredith is representing a decorated major who faces prosecution for manslaughter over the death of an Iraqi teenager 13 years ago. She also provided evidence at the Defence Sub Committee’s inquiry into the support offered by the MoD to former and serving military personnel who are subject to judicial process.
The Defence Committee report says the MoD’s package of support for service personnel is “fragmented, inaccessible and largely unknown”.
It says the MoD must, as a priority, devise and publish a single, accessible framework which sets out the MoD’s responsibilities and the support soldiers and veterans can expect to receive. That framework must be widely publicised and understood throughout the chain of command.
Commenting on today’s report, Hilary Meredith said:
“It has been a long, hard battle but this report backs our call for the MoD to support servicemen and women facing judicial process with a framework of support.
“The MoD must now act with immediate effect. They simply cannot pay lip service anymore. It is time to right the wrongs.”
“The early indications are encouraging.
“The MoD has accepted the Committee’s view that there has previously been a lack of clarity about the support package offered to Service personnel and veterans, and says it has taken steps to address this. The Army Personnel Services Group has also written to all Commanding Officers to ensure that there is an improved understanding of the package of support that is offered to both serving personnel and veterans. This included information on the background to IHAT’s investigations, the welfare and legal support available and the responsibility of Commanding Officers. Additionally, support for veterans who are subject to investigations has also been referenced in ‘Veterans Key Facts’, a document which outlines government support for veterans and the services that they are entitled to. This has been distributed to all MPs and will also be promoted through the Armed Forces Covenant microsite and gov.uk.”
“We will continue to hold the MoD to account over this issue.”