Government rejects proposals to reform military exemptions in the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act 2007

Response by Hilary Meredith

The Government has today published its response to the Beyond Endurance? Military exercises and the duty of care report – rejecting proposals to reform the military exemptions in the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act 2007.

Hilary Meredith, CEO at Hilary Meredith Solicitors Ltd, gave evidence to the Beyond Endurance Inquiry which earlier this year recommended that the MoD should be stripped of its historic immunity from prosecution when personnel are killed during training as a result of a serious failing in its duty of care.

Hilary Meredith Solicitors (Clare Stevens) also represented the father of Corporate James Dunsby at the Inquest into the death of his son and two other SAS trainees (Lance-Corporal Edward Maher and Lance-Corporal Craig Roberts) who died from heat exhaustion on an endurance march in the Welsh Brecon Beacons, resulting in the Parliamentary Inquiry.

Commenting on the Government’s decision to reject proposals to reform the military exemptions in the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act 2007, Hilary Meredith said:

“It comes as no surprise that yet again the MoD is trying to wriggle out of responsibility for failings so grossly negligent they result in manslaughter.

“Only modest amendments to the Corporate Manslaughter Act 2007 would be required to ensure in such rare circumstances the MoD as a corporation would face sanctions or heavy fines and lessons would be learnt.

“The MoD admits itself that these circumstances would be few and far between so what does it have to fear? Why should the MoD be any different from any other large corporation when such terrible mistakes have been made?”

Continued Hilary:

“I welcome the implementation of the Defence Safety Authority formed on 1st April 2015.

However it does seem as if it is too little too late after the disastrous consequences of Brecon Beacons.

“I also welcome the Duty Holder concept where the MoD is holding to account their own in charge of design and delivery of training. However there is still no acceptance of responsibility at the top from the MoD as a corporation.

“It is encouraging that moves are being made to reduce climatic injuries in the armed forces. However, the MoD has changed the Armed Forces Compensation scheme so that anyone

suffering climatic injuries has to fund the cost of an independent neurological report. These reports can cost up to £2500 each and the cost has to be met by the victim.

“It is also good news that at last the MoD will provide the next of kin with unredacted copies of the Service Inquiry report following the fatality of a loved one. Hopefully this will mean the full, accurate circumstances leading up to a death will be known from day one rather than coming to light at the Coroner’s Court.

“Ultimately however, the MoD is still policing itself with no proper sanctions when things go disastrously wrong. Why will it not accept corporate responsibility?”